For a great introduction to an unsung hero, read Fiona Robinson’s The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs. Like Mary Anning and many other female scientists of the Victorian era, Anna Atkinson’s work was not fully appreciated during her lifetime.

Robinson explains in a clear style how Anna’s love for science was encouraged by her father, John Child. He was a scientist who had his own laboratory at his home in Tonbridge, England. He taught the young Anna himself and inspired her to follow his footsteps in the scientific field.

Robinson’s illustrations are mostly in Prussian blue and, thus, match the color of Anna Atkins’s cyanotypes. Characters, especially Anna, are wide-eyed and childlike, giving children a version of Anna that looks much like themselves.

Several scenes are set in the present giving the scenes a sense of immediacy. Several scenes begin “one morning” or “on this day.”

While Anna did not invent the cyanotype technology, she used this early form of photography in a new and innovative way. The photograms, as they are called, are much more life-like than an artist’s drawings that scientists of the day relied upon.

New York Public Library’s digital collection (

Robinson’s book serves as a great introduction to Anna Atkin’s and her groundbreaking work.

Robinson has also written book sfor young people about Lotte Reiniger, Out of the Shadows, and Ada Lovelace, Ada’s Ideas.

Chantal Walvoord