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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

On A Beam of Light, written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. Chronicle, Raincoast Books. 2013. $19.99 ages 6 and up

"Albert started asking questions. Questions at home. Questions at school. So many questions that some of his teachers told him he was a disruption to his class. They said he would never amount to anything unless he learned to behave like all the other students."

Just the name Albert Einstein scares me! I am so not a scientist, and was never likely to be despite some valiant attempts to get me interested.

In this accessible and noteworthy picture book biography, Jennifer Berne helps me understand the boy who spoke later than most children - even at three, he had little to say. That did not mean that he was not capable of wonder at the world, and of generating thoughts about what he was noticing.

The gift of a compass from his father brought joy and AMAZEMENT:

"Suddenly he knew there were mysteries in the world - hidden and silent, unknown and unseen."

Then, the questions the annoyance of his teachers and classmates. Each new thought appeared to trigger more questions. Books provided some of the answers that he sought. He had more questions than there were answers; and he wondered even more. His graduation from university did not result in a teaching job so he took a government job that allowed time for more thinking.

He made discoveries about matter and motion that led others to seek his counsel:

"For the first time in his life, people started to say, "Albert is a genius!" Now Albert could spend all his days doing what he loved - imagining, wondering, figuring and thinking."

I did discover (thankfully) that he and I have one thing in common: a mutual dislike for socks and shoes. As a grown man he felt he was old enough to decide for himself if he wanted to wear them. I concur!

This fine book is such a celebration of who he was, how he changed the way we think about the world we live in, and what an inspiration he was to the scientific world.  I have such admiration for Jennifer Berne's ability to bring this great man into the world of children's literature and give her readers such a clear picture:

"Albert thought and figured until the very last day of his life. He asked questions never asked before. Found answers never found before. And dreamed up ideas never dreamt before."

Vladimir Radunsky uses softly textured papers as background for his gouache and pen and ink artwork. They are filled with humor, and a clear look at the man who inspired so many. They are as quirky and individual as the man himself and convey a real sense of admiration for Mr. Einstein and his 'wondering' ways.

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