On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
The author of Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau (my review) returns with this picture book biography of Einstein. It follows the story of Einstein from birth through his series of amazing discoveries about the universe. The book begins with pages where Einstein as a small child does not speak until he is inspired to ask questions thanks to a compass which is given to him. Einstein is also inspired by picturing his bicycle riding on beams of light, racing through space. So he began to study science and numbers and after graduating from college wanted to be a teacher. Instead, he found a job working in a government office where he had extra time to think. That time to think turned into incredible discoveries about science and the nature of the universe until scientists and professors were seeking Einstein out to come and work with them. The end of the book celebrates Einstein’s eccentricities as well as the discoveries that he made. This is an inspiring look at a scientist who broke all the rules and decoded the universe.
Berne’s writing truly celebrates this amazing thinker. The pacing is brisk, but the tone allows readers to linger and think if they wish to. When she focuses on his odder behaviors, they are seen through a lens of what they meant for his genius rather than just being peculiar. And who wouldn’t want to not wear socks and have ice cream too!
Radunsky’s illustrations are done on textured paper that adds a soft yellow glow to the entire book, something wonderful to have in a book that speaks about rays of light. His drawings are rough and have a wonderful sense of playfulness.
A great read about a great man, this picture book biography should be welcomed by young scientists as well as in science classrooms. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Back in the 1830s, there were no women doctors, only men could have that career. But also growing up in the 1830s was a young girl who would end up changing that. Elizabeth Blackwell was not particularly well behaved: she was always exploring, working to toughen herself up, and even carried her brother over her head until he backed down. Elizabeth had not dreamed of becoming a doctor, but she was inspired when an friend mentioned how much nicer it would have been to be examined by a woman. When Elizabeth started talking about her new dream, people mocked her and told her it was impossible. She applied to school after school, until finally the 29th school she applied for said yes! But Elizabeth would have to face additional challenges in school and beyond as well. This is the story of a woman who would not take no for an answer and the way that she changed the face of medicine along the way.
Stone has written a very engaging biography of Blackwell. Much of the story is spent on her childhood and the challenges she faced getting into medical school. I love the image of a spunky young girl who just wants to explore and demonstrates determination from a very young age. She is an inspiring figure for youth, someone who discovered her dream and stood by it despite the many obstacles in her way and the mockery she endured. Stone’s author’s note continues Blackwell’s story and offers a photograph of the real Dr. Blackwell.
Priceman’s illustrations done in gouache and India ink are filled with bright colors. They bring the past to life, showing the energy of the young Elizabeth Blackwell and incorporating the vistas and buildings of the 1800s. While they are bright and vibrant, they also serve to make sure that readers are cognizant of the period in which the book takes place.
Blackwell is a real-life heroine that young readers should be aware of. This bright and welcoming new biography for younger readers is a welcome addition to library collections. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.
Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor, illustrated by Laura Beingessner
This is a biographical picture book about the environmentalist Rachel Carson. The book covers her childhood, which she spent outside in her family’s woods, orchards and fields. Her mother loved nature and passed her passion on to her daughter. Though times were tough and her father struggled to make enough money to support the family, Rachel was able to attend Pennsylvania College for Women in Pittsburgh. It was during this time that she started to be concerned about the environment. Rachel decided to become a biologist and received her Master’s Degree, becoming one of the few female biologists. After some time jobless due to the Great Depression, her two skills of science and writing came together in a job for the Bureau of Fisheries writing radio scripts about sea life. After World War II, Rachel became alarmed at the chemicals being sprayed everywhere. Though she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, she continued work on Silent Spring which caused such a reaction that new laws were created to protect the environment. This book tells the story of a woman who was smart, scientifically gifted, and passionate about the natural world she loved so much.
Lawlor pays real homage to Rachel Carson here. It is the story of her entire life, from the early days of connecting with nature through her years of study to the final, vital book she wrote. Hers is an inspirational story of what can be done by someone who is smart and passionate about a subject. It is also a great story about a woman who defied the conventions and followed her dreams. Lawlor makes Carson both intensely human but also heroic.
The illustrations are done in a simple style with ink and watercolor. They celebrate the natural world around Carson with plenty of the greens of the woods and the blues of the waters. And in each, Carson is observing and making notes. It’s a glimpse of a woman who is a scientist first and foremost.
This is a celebration of a groundbreaking book by a groundbreaking woman. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.