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On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne and Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne and Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

On a Beam of Light starts with a little boy who barely talked as a child, who got in trouble at school, and who was told he would never amount to anything. That boy was named Albert Einstein.

Jennifer Berne's biography shows Einstein's wonder and fascination toward the Universe's mysteries such as magnetism, gravity, and atomic theory. He exclaimed, "Even this book is made of atoms!"

Berne progresses through the scientist's life. After university, he starts working in a patent office, showing that even brilliant minds need a way to pay the bills. As Einstein gained perspective and fame for his ideas, he started being able to fully focus on the pursuit of answering the really big questions. 

Vladimir Radunsky's ramshackle illustrations capture Einstein's rumpled appearance and gentle eyes, using color and negative space to portray all of the goings-on in the scientist's mind.

For example, when Einstein realizes that every object in the Universe is constantly moving, we see Albert in bed with the covers pulled up as black-and-white sketches of people, animals, vehicles, and planets swarm his thoughts.

Though many of the the illustrations might seem like mere sketches, there is much detail in them. Even the look of the paper, a browned parchment, gives us insight into the world a century ago when Einstein was born. I love that Berne mentioned that once he was an adult, Einstein never wore socks again since no one could tell him what to do anymore.

The book manages to pack a lot of Einstein's concepts and ideas into simple language, making it not just a great story but a wonderful learning tool as well. For any upper-elementary students who wish to learn more, I would recommend Einstein for Beginners as a worthy follow-up to this introduction. With On a Beam of Light under your belt, you'll already have an advantage!

There has been a wonderful wave of children's biographies for scientists in recent years. You can find beautifully illustrated books about Jacques Cousteau—one of which is also by Berne!—and Jane Goodall in our Juvenile Non Fiction section. As for me, I'm holding out for a really good kid's biography of Marie Curie. She's the type of scientist I want to be!