The Vast Wonder of the World (Biologist Ernest Everett Just)

Written by: Mélina Mangal

Illustrated by: Luisa Uribe

For ages: 5 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Black Culture & Identity, Scientists, Historical Figure, Outdoors, Natural World, Trailblazers, Curiosity, Education, Racism. 

Summary: 

In 1911, Ernest was a scientist in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Woods Hole is on Cape Cod, and still a massive town for oceanic research today!  Ernest was gifted at caring for the creatures he took from the ocean, when others weren’t so careful, and Ernest was gifted at seeing the whole picture instead of just the tiny piece he was currently researching.  Ernest was especially gifted at studying how life begins from an egg, and became the entire world’s leading authority!

Ernest loved reading, but as a child had to relearn to read all over again after he contracted typhoid fever.  He observed everything around him, especially the natural world.  Ernest left the segregated South for boarding school, but when his mother died he didn’t know how to cope, so he just studied harder.  When he took a biology class in college, his entire world opened up and his lifelong fascination with cells began.  Ernest became a professor and taught his students to care for both the organisms they studied and their scientific instruments, to be kind and to observe as much as possible.  When he showed that the egg was just as important as the sperm in creating new life, he became world-famous and often worked in Europe where he was treated better.  He eventually moved with his family to France and became an independent researcher.

This book’s storyline is gorgeous, and the illustrations stunning. The story addresses both science and the systemic racism and oppression that Ernest faced because he was Black, despite being one of the most talented and intelligent biologists in the country.  In the back there is a lengthy Author’s note with a photo of Ernest, and timeline of his life, detailed information about his scientific work, and some quotes by Ernest himself.  This is a beautiful book and we are glad we found this to learn about someone new in the scientific world that worked for so many years nearby where we live!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

melina-mangalMélina Mangal loves being outdoors! From her website: “My earliest memories begin near the shores of Lake Superior, climbing trees, collecting rocks, and listening to birds. I love writing about nature and its place in young people’s lives.  Stories from faraway times and places have always captured my imagination as well.  I like to imagine what life was like as I walk along the river, or visit an historical site.  I work as an elementary school librarian, introducing students to great books, the exciting research process, and new technology.”

image-asset-4Luisa Uribe is an illustrator “living in Bogotá, Colombia. I love children’s books but venture into other fields from time to time. My favorite activities in no particular order are drawing, reading and chasing the cat around the house.”

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