The Bluest of Blues
Subtitled ‘Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs’ this picture book lovingly and creatively introduces the life of this nineteenth century botanist who found new ways to present her findings. Anna’s childhood interest in plants was encouraged by her scientist father and she drew and recorded the treasures she found, for example amassing an enormous collection of seaweeds. She is acknowledged to be one of the first women in the world to take a photograph, none of which survive today. However, her experiments with cyanotype prints have had greater longevity and can be seen in a number of museums in the UK and the USA. The book’s title refers to these prints that are always blue due to the chemicals used and to the blue of the sea near to where she collected some of her earliest botanical samples.
To complement this, the illustrations are almost entirely in shades of blue with occasional touches of red linked to love and emotion. A note from the author/illustrator explains how she created the mixed media illustrations and readers are encouraged to make their own cyanotypes. There are so many cross curricular opportunities provided by this book – science, history, art. A deep love of language is demonstrated, revelling in the naming of plants. There is no need for the excitement of learning and researching, making and doing to be pigeon-holed and restricted. As Fiona Robinson declares: ‘Anna is a treasure hunter. Anna is an artist. Anna is a scientist.’