‘Marie Curie: The Quest for Light’ - Graphic Novel Review

In this middle-grade graphic novel biography of famed scientist Marie Curie, her family background and scientific details take center stage. This authorized account of her life by two esteemed Danish scientists, Frances Andreasen Østerfelt and Anja Cetti Andersen, walks us through the tumultuous times of living under Czarist rule in 1870s Poland, Marie’s first love, the grit and determination to do well at the Sorbonne, her marriage, and her scientific achievements.  It’s also a primer on how a gifted family survived under oppressive conditions. It is a wonder any of them were able to escape and succeed in their professions, especially the women.  

One of the many things I liked about this biography is how it not only told the story of Marie, formerly known as Marya in Poland, but her siblings and parents' story, as well. It was nice to learn how she and her sister, Bronya, supported each other’s dreams and helped them come true. The writers also did a great job of breaking down the science for the layperson to understand - from the explanation of x-rays to the discovery of radium; however, there were a couple of places that I bumped on. The first being the page where she receives her academic honors at age 16, then on the next page says it “comes at a price.” Then, it lists a series of family tragedies, social pressure, and an economic downturn which lead to Marie having a nervous breakdown. The structure of the page and writing imply that it was her academic honors which led to these misfortunes which was confusing and inaccurate. The other instance was on a single page where the words, “Oh no! Three months' work lost,” with no explanation as to why that happened.  Nevertheless, these nitpicks do not detract from the overall story.

The collage-style art is fascinating and adds depth and texture to the narrative. One almost feels like you’re reading a scrap book of favorite family photos, fabric leftovers, and knickknacks.  One of the most powerful images is of the Czar. His image is lumped together with what looks like cloth and cement weighing down his people. Then, there are those collage-style eyes looking out in every direction to represent spies and the secret police. It’s a style of art that deserves more than one pass and should appeal to a middle-grade audience.

I’d highly recommend this book be part of the curriculum of not only a middle-grade English class, but a science one, as well.


Creative Team: Frances Andreasen Østerfelt and Anja Cetti Andersen (writers), Anna Blaszczyk (artist)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Click here to purchase.



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