Alexander, Lori. (illus. Vivien Mildenberger). All in a Drop: How Antony van Leewenhoek Discovered an Invisible World. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.
Antony van Leewenhoek didn’t invent the microscope. However, by developing his own techniques, he improved the microscope so much that he could see things through the lenses that others could not see through lesser microscopes. This charmingly illustrated scientific biography shows how one curious man discovered microscopic creatures. Although he was educated in a scientific field, he was fascinated with microscopes and the microscopic world. In a way, his lack of formal training freed Antony from the confines of what was already presumed to be “known,” making him open to new discoveries in ways more experienced scientists might dismiss.
Beyond reporting on Antony’s life and work, Alexander reflects upon the idea that since Antony was so secretive about his microscopes and how they were built, he may have inhibited further discovery. Would we know more now if Antony had been more forthcoming, or would someone have stolen his methods and assigned him to obscurity? Of course, we’ll never know.
All in a Drop is a necessary addition to any elementary school collection, and possibly middle school, too. The timeline in the back is helpful in putting Antony’s work in the context of other scientific advancements. There is also a glossary, source notes, additional reading, and other helpful reference materials that are present in non-fiction of this quality.
Dewey: 579.092 Interest Level: Grades 2-6
Awards and Reviews: Booklist starred, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Horn Book, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor 2020, School Library Journal
Younger readers might like: Tiny Monsters: The Strange Creatures that Live On Us, in Us, and Around Us by Steve Jenkins
Older readers might like: Invisible Allies –Microbes that Shape Our Lives (2nd Edition) by Jeanette Farrell
Fiction pairing: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
On the Web: Find open access information on the papers of van Leeuwenhoek from The Royal Society (The very same one to which Antony corresponded) at https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2014.0344