Florence Nightingale by Catherine Reef

Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse by Catherine Reef. November 8, 2016. Clarion Books, 192 p. ISBN: 9780544535800. Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1050.

Most people know Florence Nightingale was a compassionate and legendary nurse, but they don’t know her full story. This riveting biography explores the exceptional life of a woman who defied the stifling conventions of Victorian society to pursue what was considered an undesirable vocation. She is best known for her work during the Crimean War, when she vastly improved gruesome and deadly conditions and made nightly rounds to visit patients, becoming known around the world as the Lady with the Lamp. Her tireless and inspiring work continued after the war, and her modern methods in nursing became the defining standards still used today.

Includes notes, bibliography, and index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Prostitution


Booklist starred (June 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. With special attention to detail and engaging prose, Reef chronicles the life of the mother of modern nursing. Raised in England with a governess and her own father as a tutor, Florence displayed a curiosity for the workings of the natural world, even keeping a catalog of illnesses that beset her family. Though her parents turned up their noses at the idea of her entering nursing—at the time run by religious orders and in “dirty, disgusting” hospitals—Florence was determined. Studying reports of hospitals and health care and taking trips to visit hospitals overseas paid off, as Florence was given oversight of nurses for British forces in the Crimean War. Journalists covering the war brought back news to the homeland of this mysterious Lady with the Lamp. Suddenly, she was famous—though insistent that these popular images hardly represent the exhausting work of nursing. Perhaps most fascinating and relatable for young readers is Florence’s tumultuous relationship with her sister, Parthenope, which softened only with her fame. Budding scientists will enjoy seeing the changing theories about contagion, such as the later-debunked miasma theory, of which Florence was a staunch believer. Portraits, drawings, and other ephemera immerse readers in mid-nineteenth-century Europe. A captivating and inspiring study of one woman’s perseverance and the good that came from it.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2016)
Reef brings her keen eye for character to the “Lady with the Lamp,” Florence Nightingale. Nightingale’s service during the Crimean War, where she emphasized the importance of good sanitation and a calm demeanor among hospital workers, bringing hope to the injured and dying, made her a worldwide celebrity. At a time when a woman was expected to “[obey] her husband if she was married or her father if she remained single,” Nightingale acquiesced to no one, finding meaning in the work of saving lives and advancing the nursing profession like few before or since. Making fine use of primary sources, Reef paints a complete picture of the complex woman (her management style was “curt”; when advised to be more encouraging to nurses in training, “Nightingale replied that she had no time for such trifles”). All of that character development is sometimes detrimental to the pacing; the book’s first quarter moves rather slowly. But those readers who stick with the book will come away with a true appreciation for a crucial historical figure. Source notes and a selected bibliography are included; index unseen. sam bloom

About the Author

Catherine Reef is the author of more than 35 nonfiction books for young people. Her books for Clarion include the highly acclaimed JOHN STEINBECK and SIGMUND FREUD, which was the recipient of the 2002 Sydney Taylor Award, presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries. She lives in College Park, Maryland.

Her website is www.catherinereef.com.

Around the Web

Florence Nightingale on Amazon

Florence Nightingale on JLG

Florence Nightingale on Goodreads



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