Lauren Redniss's "Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout" is atypical in its plethora of both the only relatively recently possible: it's a history of science about a woman; it's a biography of scientists in which romance is an important element of the story; it's an erudite treatment of an historical subject written by a woman -- and the supposedly still-impossible: it's a rigorously researched and thoroughly annotated work in which almost every page is a handcrafted watercolor; one of its appendices contains a "radioactive bestiary and garden" listing, in addition to deinococcus radiodurans (a radiation-resistant bacterium found alive in heavily irradiated canned meat) and albino barn swallows adapted to Chernobyl's "Zone of Alienation" (which would make a great band or spy novel name), Godzilla and Bert the Turtle (animated fictional star of theĀ Duck and Cover Civil Defense PSA's); it's a National Book Award Finalist in Nonfiction while, again (this bears repeating), nearly all its pages are paintings made by the author.

It's something of theĀ generic radiation-mutated love-child of a non-fiction novel, a graphic novel, a scholarly biography, and a Caldecott award winner . . . more impossibilities.