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

by Fiona Robinson

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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.


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

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.

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