What Miss Mitchell Saw


Maria Mitchell is steadfast, determined and observant. She knows all the wild roses that spread throughout Nantucket Island. She knows the shopkeepers and the captains of the tall whaling ships that populate the harbour. Her focus leads to her supporting her father in his observatory. There Maria Mitchell comes to know the night sky intimately, tracking the movements of the ‘celestial phenomenon’.

When she sees a splatter of sparkling movement beyond Polaris, Maria Mitchell realises she has witnessed a comet. Will the news of her observation reach the King of Denmark ahead of other grand, European astronomers? Her letter will take two days to leave Nantucket harbour alone!

‘What Miss Mitchell Saw’ is a captivating history of a little known astronomer. Her efforts and discoveries are wonderful to realise. This beautiful picture book, with star swept descriptive language and soaring pictures, brings life to a starry trailblazing figure.

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What Miss Mitchell Saw

Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Diana Sudyka

(Simon & Schuster)– hardback

‘What Miss Mitchell Saw’ through her telescope earned her a prestigious award. As a child, Miss Mitchell  was trusted ‘with tasks large and small’ until she was selected to help her father in his observatory. They gazed at the night sky with such wonder that they came to know planets, stars and ‘celestial phenomenon.’ ‘Maria swept the sky‘ tracking every whale bone pin prick of its movement and wonder.
 The Nantucket harbour vessels depended upon Maria’s reliability and knowledge. Yet her gaze stretched so far as to meet a challenge from the King of Denmark. Who could be the first person to record the sighting of a new comet? Could news of Maria’s sighting of ‘a nameless patch of light, not far from Polaris‘ reach the the King ? It would take two days for a letter to leave Nantucket! Thereafter, it would travel across an ocean and through the hands of international astronomers to reach its goal.
Like The Spacesuit, this is an unknown historical gem of a story. ‘What Miss Mitchell Saw‘ resonates with wonder, achievement and discovery.



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