Wednesday, September 8, 2021

June Almeida, Virus Detective: A Nonfiction Picture Book Review and Giveaway

When author Suzanne Slade read about June Almeida in National Geographic in April, 2020, many of us were still figuring out how the coronavirus pandemic would impact our lives. Suzanne put aside the book she was working on and spent two intense weeks (after serious research and interviewing June's daughter Dr. Joyce Almeida), to complete a decent first draft. She contacted two publishers with whom she had previously worked. She wanted to know who could do the fastest turn-around since she was hoping to get the book out in one year. Sleeping Bear Press was the most excited about the topic and were prepared to "move mountains" to release it in one year-- which they did. In early 2021, Suzanne's book about the woman who discovered the first human coronavirus was published by Sleeping Bear Press. What a timely book!


As a child, June loved school and discovering new things in science. 

She also loved her baby brother Harry. When she was ten he died of a serious illness. As she grew up, June never forgot him and the illness that took him away at such a young age. 

Apart from studying biology and finding out about cells and their jobs, she also enjoyed photographing nature. 

To help support her family, June left school at 16 and obtained a job at a local hospital. She gained skills in using a microscope. Several years later she used these skills when she started working with a powerful electron microscope. 

Photo from the Washington Post January 2021
but courtesy of Julie Almeida.

Instead of using light, this huge microscope shot a beam of electrons at the sample being examined. It recored how the electrons acted when they hit the sample and then created a detailed picture...The microscope's photos were helpful. But it was hard to tell which tiny blobs were viruses and which were cells....June was determined to get better pictures.
Using her photography and electron microscope skills, June blasted antibodies and virus cells with an electron beam. "The antibodies "crowded around the virus--just as she'd hoped." 

Her excellent pictures made her famous in the scientific world. A London scientist sent her a mysterious virus no one in his lab could identify. 

June used a technique called negative staining and spotted the mystery virus!

Photo courtesy Julie Almeida and A.J. Tyrell.

Years earlier she'd seen two other viruses that looked like this virus, but researchers rejected her paper saying she couldn't have possibly found a new virus.

But in 1964 she did. She and the scientists named it Coronavirus. 


This inspirational curriculum resource will be a welcome addition to home and classroom libraries in grades 1-4. I love that this STEM book ends with a poem which June wrote, (with apologies to poet William Blake, the author of "The Tyger").
Virus, Virus, shining bright,
in the phosphotungstic night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fivefold symmetry.
The author explains that "the first two lines refer to the phosphotungstic acid June used to turn the liquid surrounding virus particles black, making it easier to see bright white virus particles. The last line describes a virus particle with five identical sections."

As you can tell from the illustrations and the book trailer below, illustrator Elisa Paganelli and Sleeping Bear Press did a great job paying attention to details. No wonder Suzanne said, "I'm incredibly happy with how the book turned out."


Back matter includes more information bout June, her use of the electron microscope, a timeline, and a bibliography. 


Leave me a comment (with your email address if you are new to my blog) by 5 PM September 10. If you are a teacher, homeschool educator, or media specialist please let me know and I'll enter your name twice!


Susan said...

Yes! I think Michael would love this book! Thanks for entering me!

Trish said...

Looks like a great book all around, that I’m sure my grand kids and I would enjoy!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Susan and Trish. Starting the list with your names!

Danielle H. said...

I checked this book out from the library and learned so much. The fact that I never heard of this scientist before made me angry because the reason probably is this important person is a woman, overlooked by men. Thank you for the chance to win a copy to have in my library.

Carol Baldwin said...

You are welcome, Danielle. As you know, it's excellent!

Margo Jantzi said...

Elementary School Librarian who loves to bring great nonfiction books to our Title I readers.

Margo Jantzi said...

Thanks for a great nonfiction title to share with our elementary library readers. Margo librarian

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Margo. Happy to put your name in twice!

Lois said...

I'm sure my scientist daughter would love to share this book with her daughter. Thanks for finding such good reads, Carol.

Carol Baldwin said...

I'm sure she would, Lois. And thanks SLEEPING BEAR PRESS for sending me such great books to share with you!

Elyset20 said...

What an inspirational woman! A great role model for our 8 y/o to read about.
I’d love a copy for her.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you Elyse, and welcome to my blog! Happy to add your nam to the list.

Zachary Snyder said...

Think my twins would love this book!

Rosi said...

This looks like an amazing, inspiring book. I'm sure it will help to spur kids to become scientists. The artwork in it is terrific. I will definitely be checking it out. I will pass on the giveaway since I just won a book on your blog. Thanks for telling me about this one.

Carol Baldwin said...

Your name is on the list, Zachary!

Debbie Allmand said...

A great source for kids that really don't understand what viruses actually are. Also it is such a easy read that all levels can handle it. Great review!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Deb. I learned from this book too!

Barbara Younger said...

What a fascinating subject for a picture book biography. I'd love to win a copy! Thank you!

Carol Baldwin said...

You got it, Barbara!

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