Fall 2023


Katalin Karikó and the mRNA Vaccine

  • Interest Level: Grade 7 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

An thorough and accessible biography of Dr. Katalin Karikó, winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, whose hard work pioneering mRNA research led to the COVID-19 vaccines.

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, scientist Katalin Karikó was one of the few people who believed in the potential of mRNA to help cells fight off disease. Breakthrough chronicles Karikó’s relentless pursuit of knowledge and dedication to helping people, depicting her as an inspirational figure for readers interested in science. The book contextualizes Karikó’s work within her upbringing in a small village in rural Hungary, the discrimination she faced as an immigrant and woman scientist, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Accessible descriptions of the science behind mRNA support the main narrative, and profiles of other significant figures in the development of the mRNA vaccine illustrate how scientific achievement is never earned alone.

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Interest Level Grade 7 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 8
Genre Social Studies, Young Adult
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, Biography, Diverse Books: Feminism, Diverse Books: Immigration & Refugees, Diversity, STEM, STEM: Life Science/Health and Human Body, STEM: Technology
Copyright 2024
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Twenty-First Century Books ™
Language English
Number of Pages 136
Publication Date 2023-11-07
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS YAN006110, YAN024030, YAN050030
Dewey 572.092 [B]
Dimensions 6 x 9
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Bibliography/further reading, Glossary, Index, Photo captions, Reviewed, Sidebars, Source notes, Table of contents, and Timeline

Author: Stephanie Sammartino McPherson

Stephanie Sammartino McPherson wrote her first children's story in college. She enjoyed the process so much that she's never stopped writing. A former teacher and freelance newspaper writer, she has written more than thirty books and numerous magazine stories. Her recent books include Hothouse Earth: The Climate Crisis and the Importance of Carbon Neutrality, winner of the Green Earth Book Award for young adult nonfiction, and Breakthrough: Katalin Karikó and the mRNA Vaccine. Stephanie and her husband, Richard, live in Virginia.


School Library Journal

“Complex scientific information is conveyed clearly, so that important ideas can be understood. . .This biography is timely as Karikó (along with Weissman) recently won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Accessible writing and thorough research make this a great science resource for middle and high school students.” —School Library Journal


“[A] timely tribute to a dedicated visionary and modern-day hero who never gave up.”— Booklist

Kirkus Reviews

“The work shines most when elucidating the long path to scientific discovery, including the many failed experiments and minor discoveries that necessarily precede breakthroughs. A stimulating and accessible foray into recent scientific history.” —Kirkus Reviews