i galileo

I, Galileo by Bonnie Christensen

Told in the first person, this look at Galileo’s life is made all the more personal through the unique point of view.   Galileo tells the tale from the house and walled garden he is imprisoned in.  Blind and aging, he recalls his childhood and the way that he helped his father with his musical experiments after leaving the university with no degree.  He was offered a teaching position in the same university a bit later, but he refused to be traditional and instead wore what he liked and tested Aristotle’s laws of physics.  He was soon let go of his teaching role and headed to another university where they were more interested in his experiments.  There he invented the compass and the telescope.  Looking through his telescope, Galileo discovered that the sun is the center of the universe.  It was then that his troubles truly began.  For seven years, he was bound to silence about his findings until a new man became pope.  When Galileo finally published his findings, they so incensed people that he was tried for heresy before the Inquisition.  And so the story comes back to the old man imprisoned in the walled garden.

Through a brief preface, Christensen sets the stage for the time period of Galileo’s life.  It will help modern children understand the technology that was not available in that day.   Her afterword is equally intriguing and helpful, explaining that it took almost four centuries (until 1992) for the Catholic Church to admit they were wrong to condemn Galileo.  Christensen paints a picture of the world around Galileo well.  His discoveries, his world of academia, the political and religious powers at play, and his mistreatment at their hands.  This book is exceedingly readable.

It is also lovely.  The illustrations are done in jewel tones that have a depth and richness.  They almost recall stained glass with their thicker black lines and the light that shines in each of them.  Even the image of Galileo before the Inquisition plays with light and color. 

A choice pick for libraries looking for a readable and interesting biography of this heroic scientist.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.