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Review of On a Beam of Light

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
by Jennifer Berne; 
illus. by Vladimir Radunsky
Primary    Chronicle    56 pp.
5/13    978-0-8118-7235-5    $17.99

The title of this book refers to the mental picture young Albert Einstein conjured one day while biking through the countryside; he looked at the sunbeams “speeding from the sun to the Earth” and suddenly imagined he was “racing through space on a beam of light.” Berne and Radunsky — in a gorgeous piece of bookmaking — use this “biggest, most exciting thought Albert had ever had” as the focal point for their homage to the great physicist. As a boy, young Einstein “hardly said a word at all.” But he “looked and wondered” at the world around him, studying constantly and reading just about anything he could get his hands on. Berne’s simple, clear text shows many of the adult Albert’s child-friendly inclinations (solitary boat rides, ice-cream walks, an aversion to socks), while Radunsky’s naive style and spontaneous line work create a sense of movement that perfectly mirrors Albert’s childlike sense of awe and endless search for answers. At one point, while watching sugar dissolve into tea and pipe smoke vanish into thin air, Einstein marvels, “How could one thing disappear into another?” His answer — that matter is made out of “little bits called ‘atoms’” — is brilliantly and logically depicted in a pointillist-inspired spread. Radunsky’s muted earth tones are a perfect marriage for the beautiful, grainy paper the book is printed on. But his portrayal of the brilliant physicist is truly amazing: soulful and wide-eyed, Radunsky’s Einstein evokes the very wonder that led the famed man to his greatest discoveries. An author’s note and list of related books are included.

From the May/June 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Sam Bloom

Sam Bloom is a former elementary and middle school teacher. He is currently senior children's librarian at the Blue Ash branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio.

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