I always love reading about women who break barriers, as regular readers know. But you may not know that I collect colored glass vases and that I had the opportunity several years ago to try glassblowing and make my own vase.
So when I saw this new picture book about a female glassmaker, you know I had to read and share it!
Title: A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead
Written & Illustrated By: Evan Turk
Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster/2020
Suitable for Ages: 5-9
Themes/Topics: glassmaking, biography, women, glass beads, persistence, breaking barriers
Marietta loved to watch the sun. It was like a glowing ball of glass that rose each morning to give light and color to the world.
She lived with her family on the island of Murano, as all the glassmakers did, cut off from the main city of Venice.
Young Marietta grew up in a family of Murano glassmakers during the Renaissance, but glassmaking was a male profession. With her father’s encouragement and much determination, Marietta became one of the first female professional glassmakers and invented a beautiful glass bead.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about Venice and the glass-making islands that surround this city of canals;
- Check out the kid-friendly activities at Corning Museum of Glass;
- Watch a fun video about the chemistry of glass and how it is made.
Why I Like this Book:
Pluck, persistence, a craft that combines science and artistic skill, and gorgeous illustrations – what’s not to like about the latest from the talented author-illustrator Evan Turk?
A Thousand Glass Flowers is the story of a young girl, Marietta, growing up in a family of male glassmakers at a time when glassmaking, like the vast majority of crafts and professions, was solely a male profession. But young Marietta was fascinated by the glass-making process, despite the noise and the heat of the furnace. Her father, a master glassmaker, not only noted her interest but encouraged her to learn more and test her skills.
After his death, Marietta continued his glassmaking processes. She also furthered the profession by learning to make delicate beads that looked like a thousand flowers, the so-called rosetta beads, or “millefiori” in Italian. Many readers may be familiar with these beads, which are still popular today.
I think children and adults will enjoy learning more about the fascinating process of glassmaking and the influence one woman had on its process and art in an era when men dominated the craft.
Turk’s jewel-toned with gold-accented illustrations really bring this story, glassmaking, and the era to life.
A Note about Craft:
As noted in an Author’s Note, little is known about Marietta’s early life, so Turk imagined several scenes in which Marietta’s father taught her the trade. A Thousand Glass Flowers therefore is not strictly-speaking a biography or pure non-fiction.
Despite the lack of information about Marietta’s early life, Turk went above and beyond doing research, including visiting Venice and Murano, meeting one of Marietta’s descendants (who happens to be an antique glass expert), and even visiting the world-famous Corning Museum of Glass, where he tried glassblowing himself.
Finally, regular readers know that the vast majority of the books I choose as Perfect Picture Books have a social justice theme. In addition to exploring historic barriers to careers for women, Turk explains in the Author’s Note that the beads Marietta invented were used by Columbus on his journeys and as payment for, among other items, slaves in Africa. I believe this information is important to consider, even as we marvel at the beauty of Marietta’s creations.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!