From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5–This well-crafted picture-book biography focuses on Einstein's hard-to-classify brilliance, which led to awesome scientific discoveries, but all too often left him a misunderstood outsider. Brown describes his subject's loving, cultured parents who were frequently nonplussed by their son's behavior and temper. He found himself the "odd boy" at school, and as the only Jewish student, was sometimes taunted by other children. He puzzled his instructors as well; though clearly gifted in science, math, and music, he was an indifferent student in most subjects. Brown's pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations, rendered in a palette of dusky mauve and earthy brown, portray a doubtful, somewhat unhappy-looking child, except for a picture in which he gazes fondly at a compass, a gift that astonishes him as he ponders its mysteries. In many scenes he is marginalized on the sidelines, set apart by color and shading. One dramatic spread features an adult Einstein pushing his child in a carriage, looking small against a backdrop that highlights some of the scientific puzzles that so engaged him. Through eloquent narrative and illustration, Brown offers a thoughtful introduction to an enigmatic man. This book will pique the interest of readers with little or no knowledge of Einstein.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
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Gr. 3-5. Young readers won't come away from Brown's newest picture-book biography understanding the theory of relativity, but they will be heartened by the parallels between their own experiences and those of an iconic science guy. The author-illustrator of Mack Made Movies (2003) and other books presents the future Nobel Prize winner as a sallow, sunken-eyed little boy who lingers on the sidelines as other boys roughhouse, spends hours building a house of cards "fourteen stories high," and vexes his teachers (one tells him that "he would never get anywhere in life"). Brown's language dips into vagueness when it's time to describe the mature scientist's contributions, and the accompanying artwork is often disappointingly generic, awkwardly incorporating computer-generated elements that overwhelm the delicate ink-and-watercolor style used elsewhere. Still, this joins Frida Wishinsky's What's the Matter with Albert? (2002) as one of the very few picture-book biographies of Einstein available. Try giving it to older elementary students, who will get the most out of the detailed author's note and bibliography featuring many books for adults. Jennifer Mattson
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