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Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom - Perfect Picture Book F

I've often wondered how many great minds, inventors, musicians, and artists we've lost because the individual was born into dire poverty or systemic discrimination.

Fortunately, many great actors, musicians, scientists, and sports heroes fought harder to fulfill their dreams, after being told to quit and made to feel a failure. This week's #PPBF book features determined woman whose efforts not only changed our understanding of physics but paved a path for women scientists.

Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom

Author: Teresa Robeson

Illustrator: Rebecce Huang

Publisher: Sterling Children's Books (2019)

Ages: 5-18



Honesty, hard work, and following your passion.


When Wu Chien Shiung was born in China 100 years ago, most girls did not attend school; no one considered them as smart as boys. But her parents felt differently. Giving her a name meaning “Courageous Hero,” they encouraged her love of learning and science. This engaging biography follows Wu Chien Shiung as she battles sexism and racism to become what Newsweek magazine called the “Queen of Physics” for her work on beta decay. Along the way, she earned the admiration of famous scientists like Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer and became the first woman hired as an instructor by Princeton University, the first woman elected President of the American Physical Society, the first scientist to have an asteroid named after her when she was still alive, and many other honors.

Opening Lines:

In China, in the small town of Liuhe,

the Wu family celebrated the birth of a child.

The child was a girl.

A girl!

What would become of her?

What I Liked about this book:

Teresa Robeson and Rebecca Huang have created a beautiful biography that is a tribute to a brilliant and hardworking scientist and an inspiration for children to work hard and follow their dreams. The illustration's muted colors and collage style work well with the spare text to express the joy Wu Chien Shiung felt studying and investigating physics.

Text © Teresa Robeson, 2019 . Image © Rebecca Huang, 2019.

Born in a time when girls were limited in their schooling and opportunities, Chien Shiung's parents encouraged her to be anything she wanted. As teachers in their own school, they ensured her an education. As she grew and learned, she had to brave travelling farther and farther into the world, away from her family.

Text © Teresa Robeson, 2019 . Image © Rebecca Huang, 2019.

Her thirst and excitement for knowledge drove her to teach herself biology, chemistry, and physics. To head across China to college. And ultimately, to sail across the Pacific to Berkeley, California, where she studied the beta decay of atoms. Eventually, she moved to Columbia University. At each stage, she countered prejudice and barriers with grace and determination.

Text © Teresa Robeson, 2019 . Image © Rebecca Huang, 2019.

Robeson deftly explores how Chien Shiung "conducted experiment after experiment," carefully and precisely, until she knew more about beta decay and parity than almost anyone else. How three teams of male scientists asked for her help in proving their theories. And how each time, her carefulness, determination, and hard work proved their theories and resulted in those men receiving Nobel Prizes. Each time ignoring her contribution. But following her Baba's advice to "ignore the obstacles. Just put your head down and keep walking forward," allowed her to push past the slights and disappointments and become the "Queen of Physics."

This remarkable 48-page biography will enhance any nonfiction collection and is sure to inspire others to follow their passions, despite the hard work and setbacks, and fulfill their dreams.


- what is your dream or passion? What is the biggest obstacle you might face? Create a plan to overcome it;

- try a couple of physics activities and games (; or

- make a paper plate atom and/or gum drop molecules (

If you missed Teresa Robeson's interview on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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