All in a Drop: How Antony Van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World

by Lori Alexander (Author) Vivien Mildenberger (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

Robert F. Sibert Honor Award winner A Junior Library Guild Selection A 2020 Outstanding Science Trade Book A New York Public Library Best of 2019 A 2020 Best STEM Book by NSTA and CBC For fans of the "Who Was" series, this lively, accessible, and full-color chapter book biography shows how a self-taught scientist was the first to observe the microbial life in and around us.

By building his own microscope, Antony van Leeuwenhoek advanced humanity's understanding of our oft-invisible world around us. Microbes are everywhere: in the soil and oceans, in snow, and inside our bodies. But in Antony van Leeuwenhoek's time, people believed that what they saw with their own eyes was all that existed in the world. How did a simple tradesman--who didn't go to college or speak English or Latin like all the other scientists change everyone's minds? Proving that remarkable discoveries can come from the most unexpected people and places.

This eye-opening chapter book, illustrated with lively full-color art, celebrates the power of curiosity, ingenuity, and persistence.

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Publishers Weekly

In this well-researched biography, immediate present-tense narration by Alexander (Famously Phoebe) allows readers to feel that they're making discoveries right alongside scientist Antony van Leeuwenhoek in 1670s Netherlands. Though van Leeuwenhoek didn't invent the microscope, his refinements of the instrument and endless curiosity resulted in the discovery of hidden microbial realms. Ten short chapters describe how the "father of microbiology," who viewed hundreds of specimens, succeeded despite lacking formal training. Naïf full-color illustrations by Mildenberger (Famous Family Trees) depict a ruddy-cheeked van Leeuwenhoek going about his work, while numerous sidebars contextualize and expand the story. One, for example, shows a diagram of van Leeuwenhoek's first microscope; others explore topics such as convex versus concave lenses and bubonic plague. A timeline, glossary, bibliography, and index wrap up Alexander's highly engaging account of how one man's ingenuity and curiosity led to big discoveries of small worlds. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 7-10. (Aug.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 2-5--In this current era of the electron microscope, it is difficult to imagine when the microscopic world was not only unknown but unimagined. With no university education or formal training in the sciences, 36-year-old Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) was exposed to English scientist Robert Hooke's investigations during a London vacation. Galvanized by this blossoming curiosity, he taught himself to grind superior lenses in order to closely examine the hidden world of various objects. He then diffidently shared his findings with the Royal Society and despite initial skepticism was ultimately elected a Fellow. Alexander's clear text, accompanied by simple color illustrations, outlines topics such as bubonic plague, scientific nomenclature, the perils of E. coli and giardia, and the physics of microscope lenses. All is rounded off by an extensive author's note, a time line from van Leeuwenhoek's birth to the development of the electron microscope, a glossary, source notes, and a bibliography. VERDICT This pleasantly readable biography of Antony van Leeuwenhoek illuminates the unexpected journey of a Dutch draper from anonymity to becoming the "Father of Microbiology." Readable, informative, and a celebration of dedicated curiosity.--Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

★ "Engaging illustrations....An attractive, very readable book on an important figure in the history of science."—Booklist, STARRED review

"Readable, informative, and a celebration of dedicated curiosity."—School Library Journal

"[This book] makes Antony's life's work accessible to a young audience that is sure to be intrigued and inspired....Methodical young scientists will see themselves in the 'Father of Microbiology.'"—Kirkus

"Well researched....highly engaging."—Publishers Weekly

"Alexander's text is smooth and engaging, packaged into short chapters perfect for reading aloud, and enhanced with brief inserts of technical and scientific background and Mildenberger's lively yet soft-textured scenes and vignettes."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Alexander's excellent, accessible overview of Leeuwenhoek's life gives upper-elementary chapter-book readers a feel for both the person and the historical context." — The Horn Book
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Clarion Books
Publication date
November 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JNF007090 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Science & Technology
JNF051190 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Science & Nature | History of Science
JNF051050 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Science & Nature | Biology
JNF051170 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Science & Nature | Discoveries
Library of Congress categories
Leeuwenhoek, Antoni van
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
Honor Book 2020 - 2020

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