by Bonnie Christensen
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
Grades 3 and up
The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her local library.
We're partnering with Kid Lit Frenzy to challenge people to read more nonfiction picture books this year. If you're taking part in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, here's a title you'll want to add to your to-be-read pile.
I was first introduced to Bonnie Christensen's work when her picture book biography, Django: World's Greatest Jazz Guitarist, won a Schneider Family Book Award in 2010. Christensen also wrote and illustrated the picture book biography, Fabulous! A Portrait of Andy Warhol. Christensen's latest nonfiction book examines the life and work of scientist and inventor, Galileo Galilei.
In the preface, Christensen asks readers to imagine what it would be like to live in a world without telescopes, clocks and thermometers. Upon turning the page, readers will see a two-page spread of the Italian countryside painted in gouache resist with oil paints. Galileo sits on a bench playing the lute as he looks outward to the sky. The illustrations have an antiquated feeling that is fitting for a story set in the sixteenth century.
The story is told in chronological order beginning with the scientist's childhood. The author highlights Galileo's work with physics and astronomy and ends with his trial and imprisonment. Christensen packs a lot of information in just thirty-four pages. The narrative is told in the first person which allows readers to see events unfold from Galileo's point of view.
"I was not popular in Pisa, however. At the age of twenty-five, I scorned tradition. First by refusing to wear the cumbersome robes of a professor, then by disputing one of Artistotle's sacred laws of physics."
Readers will learn how a swinging lamp in a cathedral gave Galileo the idea for the pendulum as a timekeeper. The pages about Galileo's invention of the telescope include a diagram showing readers the difference between the eyepiece lens (concave) and and the primary lens (convex). Circles appear throughout the book acting as a lens on Galileo's life. The first circle in the book frames an illustration of Galileo observing the shadow of St. Andrew's chapel. The final circle outlines an illustration of Galileo on trial for heresy for following Copernicus.
Back matter is extensive and includes a timeline, lists of Galileo's experiments and inventions, a glossary, and bibliography. I, Galileo will please science-minded readers while providing ample information for students working on school assignments. It would make a strong addition to a juvenile biography section.