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

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers

Review

In Kent, in the early 1800s, Anna’s father is determined that he will teach her all about the natural world, even though it’s normal at this time that girls receive little education. Fascinated by insects and plants, Anna becomes her father’s research partner, collecting different species and learning their Latin names.

By her early 20s, Anna is a botanist. Her father becomes a fellow of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, and tells Anna about every lecture, because she, as a woman, is not allowed to be a member. But Anna continues her work and builds a huge herbarium with thousands of individual plant samples. She also becomes the first woman to take a photograph with one of the first cameras made – a gift from her father. But it’s not until the scientist John Herschel introduces her to cyanotope prints that Anna realises how she can record her botanic collections.

Fiona Robinson’s beautifully blue book about Anna Atkins’ life is an inspiring testament to a father’s commitment to his daughter’s education, and to Anna’s passion for the natural world. It’s fascinating to learn about forgotten women from history, and young nature lovers are sure to be inspired by Anna’s story.

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