The Diamond and the Boy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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Title: The Diamond and the Boy – The Creation of Diamonds & The Life of H. Tracy Hall

Author: Hannah Holt

Illustrator: Jay Fleck

Publisher: Balzer + Bray , 2018

Ages:  5-8

Themes: diamonds, inventor, experimentation, Tracy Hall, obstacles, scientist

Genre: Picture Book Biography/nonfiction


named graphite,

named Tracy,





in the earth
waiting centuries
for the right time
to shine
Then one day…


Before a diamond is a gem, it’s a common gray rock called graphite. Through an intense trial of heat and pressure, it changes into one of the most valuable stones in the world.

Before Tracy Hall was an inventor, he was a boy—born into poverty, bullied by peers, forced to work at an early age. However, through education and experimentation, he became one of the brightest innovators of the twentieth century, eventually building a revolutionary machine that makes diamonds. (Publisher)

Why I like this book:

 This is a fascinating dual portrait of both rock and man. 

There are multiple layers of brilliance in this narrative. The side-by-side dual narrative is compelling and a first for me — the story of the graphite (on the left) and the story of Tracy Hall (on the right). The language is lyrical and the layout a great choice by the illustrator and art director. The echos between the two stories in words and art parallel the story of the graphite and the young life of Tracy Hall. The format is a beautiful example of thinking outside the box (which all inventors do) and gorgeous use of space and color. The weaving together of scientific facts and the personal evolution of this boy/man is masterful and builds tension beautifully.

Your students will enjoy the biography of  a poor child who loved books and outscored the 12th graders, and overcame many obstacles before going on to invent a machine that turned dust into diamonds. This is a book that will appeal to all rock-lovers, which means most kids, but especially your STEM-focused students. It is stunning and inspirational. I highly recommend this for every classroom library and home bookshelf. And I would like to see this one on the Caldecott list.


The final pages provide a history of humanity’s relationship with diamonds, as well as further insight into the Tracy Hall. The back matter is fascinating (timeline, resources, notes from the author) –as it relates to the diamond industry as well as the author’s own personal connection to Tracy Hall (her grandfather).

The author wrote a terrific blog post about her revision process for this book.

This would be great for a 4th or 5th grade science class for an earth science unit and in creative writing as a mentor text for point of view and structure.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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8 Responses to The Diamond and the Boy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Patricia Nozell says:

    Great review of this shining, new #PB biography!

  2. Hi Joanna, Great review of Hannah’s debut picture book. Thanks also for the connection.

  3. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    Oh, yes! I own this one already. Great book!

  4. Missed your review — was on vacation. I loved collecting rocks, only finding fools gold, and Indian Heads as a kid, so this would have appealed to me. Enjoyed your review.

  5. I love the very tight crafting of this book and appreciate the Hannah’s perseverance!

  6. Such an amazing book for because of the story and Hannah’s construction of a dual, linked narrative. Great nonfiction story. 🙂

  7. I’m always looking for an unusual biography. This one sounds intriguing – both the subject and the structure. Thanks for sharing it.

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