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The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs.

by Fiona Robinson

Book list Cyanotypes, or sun prints, are blue-toned photographic prints created by placing an object on chemically treated paper and exposing it to sunlight. The result is a detailed, ghostly image surrounded by deep blue. Robinson embraces this aesthetic in her beautifully illustrated biography of Anna Atkins, a nineteenth-century botanist, artist, and early adopter of this photographic technique. The narrative text walks readers through Anna's childhood in England, exhibiting her close relationship with her scientist father, who fostered her interest in plants a rare opportunity granted to women in those days. As an adult, she created cyanotypes of her impressive plant collection, resulting in the first-known books of photographs. Robinson's cyan blue illustrations pop with occasional red or yellow accents, and blend pencil drawings with watercolor paintings, vintage prints, and photographs, including some of Anna's cyanotypes. Fascinating back matter includes instructions for making sun prints, institutions where Anna's cyanotypes can be seen, and notes on how Robinson created the book's unique illustrations. Pair with Margarita Engle's Summer Birds (2010) for a glimpse of another pioneering female scientist and illustrator.--Julia Smith Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus Robinson examines the life of Anna Atkins, whose childhood love of the natural world propelled a unique career.Born in England in 1799, Anna was raised by her scientist father after her mother's death. Father abets Anna's fascination with nature, fostering her scientific education. She becomes a botanist, collecting, cataloging, and illustrating British flora. The pair moves to London, where Father works at the British Museum. Anna marries John Pelly Atkins and continues work on her pressed-plant herbarium. Father's retirement occasions the family's return to the Kent countryside, where father and daughter explore their mutual zeal for a new technology: photography. Introduced to the cyanotype, whose chemical reaction produces permanent images, Anna harnesses the technique to share her botanical collections, producing several books under the demure nom de plume "A.A." As little is known of Anna's early life, Robinson's present-tense narrative imagines childhood scenes. Historical context highlights the British mania for worldwide plant collection (but does not connect it to imperialism) and the sexist constraints on women and girls pursuing career paths. Illustrations utilize the cyanotype's distinctive blue and white, with touches of red and yellow. A note details Robinson's process, including digital manipulation of Atkins' cyanotypes. (Other backmatter includes an author's note, cyanotype instructions, bibliography, resources for Atkins' works, and illustration credits.) The effete, white-skinned figural depictions, which infantilize the adult Atkins, detract from the otherwise handsomely designed package.An inventive look at a pioneering woman whose intellectual passions culminated in published works of beauty and scientific verisimilitude. (Picture book/biography. 6-9) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly British botanist Anna Atkins used cyanotypes-photographic paper that turns blue in the sun-to publish the world's first book of photographs in 1843, a compendium of her extensive dried seaweed collection. Appropriately, the layered artwork in this picture book biography by Robinson (Ada's Ideas) is worked almost entirely in shades of blue, with the occasional red or yellow accent (a poppy, a ladybug, the sun's rays). Robinson's doll-like, romantic figures-Atkins has large eyes and round, rougelike spots on her cheeks-could skew sentimental, but the biography is detailed and informative. Atkins was lovingly reared and educated by her widowed father, and the two share a rich, loving partnership of teaching, plant collecting, and mutual encouragement as Anna grows into adulthood. A scientist friend introduces the pair to cyanotypes, and Anna sees that the medium will allow her to share her collection widely. "To my dearest father," reads her dedication (and Robinson's as well), "this attempt is affectionately inscribed." A valuable biography of an early female scientist-and a rare portrait of a father-daughter collaboration. Ages 6-9. Agent: Paul Rodeen, Rodeen Literary Management. (Feb.) c Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Gr 2-5-Raised by her scientist father, young Anna Atkins was introduced to a number of scientific ideas and methods and was encouraged to pursue her passions and education. Atkins became an avid collector of specimens from the natural world, shells and ferns and flowers among them, and learned to illustrate them with remarkable accuracy. When she was introduced to the new science of photography and cyanotypes (aka sun prints), Atkins's inspiration reached a peak and she began to catalog and photograph her enormous collection. Robinson's picture book biography is a loving tribute to this remarkable woman whose impressive contributions were recognized long after her passing. Openly acknowledging in the author's note that Atkins's childhood was lost to history, the author fills in the gaps with imagined scenes of her youth-somewhat of a misstep in an otherwise winsome work. Robinson's writing has an ethereal quality to it. The beautiful blues of the pencil drawings, watercolor washes, and original cyanotypes from Atkins's collection come together on each page as an immersive experience, creating an array of blue that limns Atkins's world. VERDICT A pleasing addition to most collections. Have readers enjoy independently or perhaps with sun print paper so that they can try their hand at cyanotype making.-Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Robinson's poetic biography of pioneering nineteenth-century botanist and photographer Anna Atkins unfortunately fictionalizes historical gaps--mainly regarding Atkins's childhood relationship with her father--with sentimental informed guesses. But the blue-hued illustrations sit alongside reproductions of Atkins's sketches and cyanotypes, resulting in blueprint-like illustrations that evoke nineteenth-century aesthetics while providing a clear picture of Atkins's work. An author's note and cyanotype instructions are included. Bib. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.