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George's Secret Key to the Universe Paperback – May 19, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"The book gets points for tackling the recurrent tension between environmentalism and science, but it succeeds first and foremost as a good old-fashioned adventure tale." (Natural History)

*"What better way to interest young readers in science...than for one of the world's most renowned theoretical physicists to put his subect at the center of a children's book?...A true beginnger's guide to A Brief History of Time." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"[An] entertaining read-aloud that integrates well-presented scientific facts and theories within a charmingly illustrated chapter book." (Booklist)

"A relief for the science-deficient parent in need of a little extra help." (New York Magazine)

About the Author

Stephen Hawking, a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, is the preeminent theoretical physicist in the world. His book A Brief History of Time was a phenomenal worldwide bestseller. He has twelve honorary degrees and was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire and was made a Companion of Honour. He has three children and one grandchild. Visit him at

Lucy Hawking, Stephen Hawking’s daughter, is a journalist and novelist. She is the coauthor of George’s Secret Key to the Universe, George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt, and George and the Big Bang, as well as the author of the adult novels Jaded and Run for Your Life. She lives in Cambridge with her son.

Garry Parsons is the award-winning illustrator of many books, including George’s Secret Key to the Universe, George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt, and George and the Big Bang by Lucy and Stephen Hawking; Billy’s Bucket by Kes Gray; and What’s Cool About School by Kate Agnew. He lives in London. Visit him at

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Series: George's Secret Key
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (May 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416985840
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416985846
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

167 of 180 people found the following review helpful By Don Smilo on November 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Except for an unbelievably clunky and clumsy first 5-6 chapters (60+ pages), this book is pretty awesome in that it both introduces very interesting, mind-blowing science concepts (black holes, radiation out of black holes, and recapture of information from black holes) and also has a very fast-paced, page-turner adventure story (escaping from a black hole). However, I doubt that many people who are used to Harry Potter-style smoothness can manage to begin wading through the first 6 chapters (60+ pages), which are super-clunky, and still keep faith that there will be a good part of the book eventually. (I almost gave up and almost stopped reading altogether.) My advice is to either (1) keep faith or, even better, (2) skip the first 5 chapters completely (but suffer with chapter 6), and you won't miss a thing. If you really worry that you've missed something, you can go back and read chapters 1-5 after finishing the book. [See footnote at bottom of this review regarding why first 6 chapters are bad.]

Some other points worth noting are that (1) this story is of the formerly common type that feels the need to have an evil villain (who murders a main character, later resurrected) for storytelling convenience, even though good-vs-"pure evil" is not a theme in this book as it is in Harry Potter, and (2) the villain in this book is surprisingly scary, and is a teacher, which parents of very young kids might object to. I think the cavalier murder in this book is more scary than the murders in Harry Potter because in this book it just happens, and no one seems very outraged by it afterward (perhaps just because the victim was later resurrected?
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Sandhya Nankani on November 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Who says you can't explain theoretical physics to kids? Certainly not Stephen and Lucy Hawking, the authors of this children's adventure novel.

Stephen Hawking is the bestselling author of A Brief History of Time which has been said to "marry a child's wonder to a genius's intellect." Lucy Hawking is his daughter and a journalist. George's Secret Key to the Universe is their first collaboration, and what fun it is!

Alongside a tale of scientific adventure, the Hawkings provide readers with scientific diagrams, charts, and full-color photos of real images from space, with help from Christophe Galfard, a former student of Stephen Hawking. The line illustrations by Garry Parsons also add a lighthearted feel to the book--the representation of George was charmingly reminiscent of The Little Prince--and they certainly complement the voice of the novel - innocent, curious, and playful.

The novel also includes Hawking's latest ideas on black holes. They are presented within the story as a series of scientist Eric's notes, complete with handwritten doodles and age-appropriate language for Annie and George.

In the 1994 bestseller Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (Fsg Classics), Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder gifted us with a fascinating primer on philosopher in novel form. He took us into the world of Sophie, a 15 year old who learned about the wisdom of thinkers from the pre-Socrates to St. Augustine through a series of letters from a mysterious correspondent. All the while, she was trying to solve a mystery. The device of wrapping intellectual lessons within a fictional narrative worked.
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Julie Neal VINE VOICE on November 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Early on, a character says "Science is a wonderful and fascinating subject that helps us understand the world around us and all its marvels." Having the reader appreciate this is the point of this hardback, which has science factoids and full-color photos from space scattered throughout. Co-authors Stephen and Lucy Hawking are father and daughter; he is the brilliant theoretical physicist who wrote A Brief History of Time.

This book should help make the topic of science interesting and accessible to middle school kids. Lively black and white cartoons illustrate every page spread. And though the first five chapters are snooze-worthy, once it gets going the story itself is intense and funny.

The adventure takes the reader to the far reaches of space and back, and along the way teaches a lot about science and how the world works, including Stephen Hawking's latest theories about black holes.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on November 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The story begins with the disappearance of George's (a young lad) pet pig, Freddy. Following the hoof-prints leads next door where George meets a scientist (Greg) and his young daughter (Annie). George has been raised in an "anti-technology" environment - his parents believe minds are wasted watching TV, and technology has been used too often to harm the environment. Greg, however, is an understanding adult and patiently explains various basic scientific facts (births and death of stars, shooting stars, basic atomic structure, comet tails, etc.), and introduces George to Cosmos - the world's most powerful computer (according to Cosmos, a computer that speaks and has an attitude).

George has always wanted a computer, and has been saving his money - only eight more years and he'll be able to get a used one! Cosmos, however, is no ordinary computer - not only does it speak, but it can transport approved users anywhere in space and time. Using one of Greg's extra space suits, George experiences space travel after first becoming an approved user (thanks to Greg) and taking the Oath of a Scientist - to use scientific knowledge only for good.

Unfortunately, Greg has to get back home, and then it's school the next day. As soon as possible he returns, goes on another adventure, and barely escapes a large, very dark area - thanks to Greg pushing him back to a computer portal that leads back to the house. The dark area, unfortunately, is a black hole - from which nothing ever escapes.

The good news is that George finds the new book that Greg tells him he needs, with the latest information on black holes.
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