Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Happiness is...a good book (Summer Reading edition #13)

I, Galileo
Author and Illustrator: Bonnie Christensen
Published: 2012
Pages: 32
Age Range: 8-12
Genre: Biography/Picture Book
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: G

First sentence: I, Galileo Galilei, am old and can no longer see, but there was a time when I saw all the way tot the stars--the moon, the planets, the sun.

Told as if in Galileo's own words this starts with a simple biography of his childhood in Pisa. Taught by his father and encouraged to think and experiment he was an ever-curious boy. He loved the life of a scholar he was introduced to when he was 11 but his father wanted him to become a doctor. After some disagreements the two found a middle ground.His curious nature caused him to be unpopular and eventually he left for Padua and Venice where he made his greatest discoveries and devised the first telescope.

Galileo spent time studying the surface of the moon, sun and the phases of the planets and while in the Medici's court in Florence discovered the sun to be the center of the universe. Remembering Copernicus' issues with the church after his declarations along the same lines, Galileo chose to keep his findings to himself for many years. Finally, when a friend became pope Galileo thought he would have the freedom and protection to declare his findings but he was summoned to an Inquisition and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The last page shows Galileo as an old man (as he was when he began telling his story) and although imprisoned he has the faith and hope that the truth will eventually shine forth.

This was a great introduction to Galileo’s life. It gave you just enough to understand why he’s someone you need to be reading about and will encourage many to want to know more. Personally I'd love to read more about him, especially his last days and time of imprisonment to know if that attitude was factual. I'm always impressed with stories of people who do hard things because they know to their core that it's the right thing to do. I'm not sure I could be so strong.

It was also fun to read about places I've seen in real life. I was able to visit Italy several years ago and saw many of the locations noted, including the church where Galileo’s lantern still hangs. He’d observed it swinging back and forth like a pendulum and legend has it this is what started him thinking about the rotation of the planets.

A note on the publication page tells us that the illustrations are gouache resist with oil paints and they are lovely. They have a rich Renaissance sort of feel to them--deep blues, reds and golds mimicking the illuminated texts of the day. Small panels of additional illustrations show the various versions of the universe (as it was previously understood and the Copernican system) as well as samples of his scientific notes and insets of his instruments.

A few extra touches: the endpapers (!) include a richly illustrated map of Italy and the stars on the cover are raised and glittery.

There is also some great back matter: a preface that sets the stage for the time and culture surrounding Galileo's birth in 1564, an afterword explaining his effects on the world we now live in,
a chronology, a list and simple explanation of Galileo's experiments, inventions and improvements and his astronomic discoveries as well as a bibliography, additional websites and small glossary.

This is a great introductory resource and would be a valuable addition to any library!

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