Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On A Beam Of Light - Nonfiction picture book review


When you teach elementary students who are fascinated by scientists and thinkers from the past, the publication of a picture book about Einstein is a source of joy. When the book is this lovely and inspiring, it becomes something I just have to blog about. 



On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
by Jennifer Berne (Goodreads Author)
Hardcover, 56 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by Chronicle Books
ISBN 0811872351 (ISBN13: 9780811872355)

Source: I purchased this for my classroom library based on the recommendations of some twitter friends!

Goodreads Summary: A boy rides a bicycle down a dusty road. But in his mind, he envisions himself traveling at a speed beyond imagining, on a beam of light. This brilliant mind will one day offer up some of the most revolutionary ideas ever conceived. From a boy endlessly fascinated by the wonders around him, Albert Einstein ultimately grows into a man of genius recognized the world over for profoundly illuminating our understanding of the universe. Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky invite the reader to travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery.


My Thoughts:
Einstein is such a fascinating person. I've yet to meet a student who isn't curious about him, especially when they see a poster of his silly grin and crazy hair. I love this opportunity to reinforce some very important points with my students.

1) Curiosity and wonder are more important than rote knowledge.
Albert made a life out of wondering. He researched what was already known, of course, but then he continued wondering. He was never satisfied with what was already known. Einstein always found a way to give his mind the wandering time it needed. With all the stimulation our students seek out on a daily basis, it is important for them to see that sometimes you need the quiet time to let your mind drift and think.

2) Be yourself
Did he care that he wasn't just like everyone else? Not even a little. He was true to his own passionate curiosity. If that meant he wasn't a beloved student - so be it. If that meant he dressed in comfy clothes so he wasn't distracted from his thoughts - let others stare.


Not only is Einstein a fascinating person - but the author and illustrator worked together to bring his unique character to life. He was an unusual child. He was curious, yet content to be within his own mind. Older students could easily be led into a discussion about how the artist used lines and colors to emphasize each aspect of his personality or life.

I loved the illustration where Einstein is imagining riding his bike on a beam of light, and the author's phrase about how it was "the biggest, most exciting thought Albert had ever had" was the perfect way to peek into his mind.  I also loved the pointillism effect on the page where they were describing Einstein's thoughts about atoms.


I plan to create a display around the theme of "Finding Your Passion - Pursue Your Dreams" - and On a Beam of Light will be a great addition to this theme.

If you are fascinated by Einstein, check out this recent post at Nerdy With Kids about myths and realities of the man himself. "What Was Albert Einstein Like as a Kid?"


It seems like writing books about the lives of intellectuals and scientists for younger readers is a current trend - one that I heartily endorse. Me... Jane was an amazing introduction to Jane Goodall for the youngest readers.

What would I love next? How about some books like this about Marie Curie, Sally Ride, Ada Lovelace... If they are already out there and I don't know about them, please post titles in the comments!


Find more excellent nonfiction books on Wednesdays each week at Kid Lit Frenzy

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