Review: Hidden Powers: Lise Meitner's Call to Science

Hidden Powers: Lise Meitner's Call to Science

by Jeannine Atkins

Atheneum Books for Young Readers (imprint of Simon & Schuster), 2022

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Merle Eisman Carrus

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Young people who are interested in science will find a wonderful role model in Lise Meitner, and girls may be especially inspired. This book, written in a beautiful poetry style, easily explains the life of Lise Meitner and her critically important contribution to science.

Each chapter is written in a simple poetic style that makes it easy to understand the complicated science that Lise and her fellow laboratory partners discovered. The story of Lise’s life and how she worked her way through many obstacles is amazing as well as inspiring.

Lise Meitner wanted to be a scientist from a very young age. She lived at a time in history when women were not offered an education and certainly not encouraged to attend university, get a doctorate, or become a professor. She overcame all these challenges and became the first female physics professor at the University of Berlin. As she was working hard to try and discover a new element for the periodic table alongside her partner, Otto Hahn, they discovered nuclear fission.

Life in Germany was getting more and more dangerous for the Jewish citizens during Lise's time. The Nazis were coming to power and Lise was in danger as she continued to work in the lab. She was dismissed from teaching because of her Jewish religious beliefs. She escapes to Sweden and continued her work. Along the way she also met other women scientists who were working hard to be accepted into the all-male world of research and professorship.

This book will encourage all young people to pursue their dreams with vigor and remain true to their beliefs and ideals.

The book touches on the atrocities of World War II but is not a Holocaust story. It explains what Lise Meitner was facing as a Jewish woman in Germany and how she escaped to save her life. The book details how she lived after the war and what happened to her family. Also well documented is the reaction of her colleagues and fellow scientists to what Hitler was doing to Germany and its citizens. Even thought the Meitner family were not very observant, her mother told her that they felt it was important to help all people. That message stayed with Lise and when she was asked to assist in building the atomic bomb, she refused. Humanitarianism was the most important attribute to Lise.

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Reviewer Merle Eisman Carrus resides in Hollis, NH and writes book reviews for the New Hampshire Jewish Reporter newspaper. She is a graduate of Emerson College and received her Masters of Jewish Studies from Hebrew College. Merle is the National President of the Brandeis National Committee and co-chair of Women's League Reads. She leads books discussion groups for BNC. She blogs her book reviews at