November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Pick of the Day: On a Beam of Light

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figure in center, title of book belowBERNE, Jennifer. On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein. illus. by Vladimir Radunsky. 56p. bibliog. Chronicle. May 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8118-7235-5. LC 2011004026.
Gr 2-6–The name Einstein is synonymous with genius, but what does that mean to a child? Einstein himself would only admit to being “very, very curious.” Berne’s picture book offers readers few biographical details, focusing instead on the physicist’s intellect through the concepts that puzzled and excited him. He was late to start speaking and not particularly verbal–until he received a compass. As the author explains, “Suddenly he knew there were mysteries in the world–hidden and silent, unknown and unseen.” And suddenly, too, he was bursting with questions–questions about magnetism, light, sound, gravity, and later, atoms, motion, and time. This was a person who spent his life “imagining, wondering, figuring and thinking.” Radunsky’s delightful pen-and-ink illustrations on cornmeal-yellow pages flecked with fibers and earth-tone highlights depict events from the man’s life, his thoughts, and a few of his quirks. Einstein’s old-world European childhood is reflected in the formal dress of the adults that loom over him. In an image that expresses his love of numbers, computations swirl around him. Selected lines in a large, red font add emphasis, and comments in the few dialogue bubbles are handwritten in a scratchy, black line. An endnote adds information on the physicist’s thought experiments, his sense of humor, E=mc², and the atomic bomb. When considering an author’s approach, Lynne Barasch’s picture book Ask Albert Einstein (Farrar, 2005) and Mareé Ferguson Delano’s photobiography, Genius (National Geographic, 2005) are noteworthy comparisons to this richly imagined, beautifully designed, impressionistic biography.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

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