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Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei Paperback – September 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The story of Galileo is at once inspiring and troubling. The brilliant astronomer was a celebrated scientist who was showered with honors and patronage until his greatest discovery--that the earth circled the sun rather than the other way around--proved to be too much of a threat to prevailing orthodoxy. Peter Sis, author of the wonderful children's book Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus, tells Galileo's tale for children ages 8 and older. A brilliant and sophisticated illustrator and a sensitive storyteller, he traces Galileo's life from childhood to his final days as a prisoner of the church. (Click to see a sample spread. © 1996 by Peter Sis. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.) (Ages 8 and older) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Extraordinary pictures light up this tribute to Galileo, telling the story of his discoveries, rise to prominence and excoriation by the Church. Sis (Follow the Dream), an experienced and sophisticated chronicler of history's visionaries, outdoes himself with his illustrations. Detailed and delicate, ingeniously conceived, his paintings convey abstractions with an immediate impact. The artist expresses the simultaneous wonder and prevision of Galileo's celestial observations, for example, in a luminous multipaneled composition: in the center, Galileo trains his telescope on the moon; surrounding panels replicate Galileo's notes about and sketches of the lunar surface. Other paintings take inspiration from contemporaneous maps and treatises; still others borrow historical imagery to convey the loneliness of the censored scientist. Handwritten passages from Galileo's own works embellish the pages and supply information missing from the text. Even with the powerful art, however, this volume does not open up Galileo's story to the uninitiated: the brief text oversimplifies the issues, even for a picture book, and seems to presume the reader's awareness of the historical significance of Galileo's struggles. While the book's usefulness may be limited, its strengths are not: it is a book with deep if not broad appeal. Ages 6-up.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 1 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 830L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374470278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374470272
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.2 x 11.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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56 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Charles Flemming on September 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
While, as an artist, I appreciate artfully illustrated children's books (and this is one), I find myself swimming against the tide in evaluating Starry Messenger by Peter Sis. It doesn't really illuminate Galileo's life as much as use him as the launching point for an incredible artistic riff. While the illustrations are exquisite, they render the text (written on a very simple second grade level) almost superfluous. Indeed, half the text is in an almost unreadable "Handwriting" typeface, very small, sometimes twisted around. I kept wondering what second grader could even read the thing.
The content of the readable text is, from my perspective anyway, very simplistic, something you would read aloud to a preschooler. And it doesn't tell much about Galileo.
If you're looking for a good juvenile biography of Galileo, and not a coffee table book for children (or the Caldecott people!),I'd recommend Leonard Everett Fisher's much better written book on the same subject. Galileo deserves better than this.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although the illustrations are delightful and fun to explore I was disappointed with the book. I bought it to give to my 7 year old grand daughter and I have not givent it to her yet. I feel this is a book written for someone who already knows a lot about Gallileo. Those who already know a lot will enjoy the illustrations, those who need to learn will miss the message.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I've reviewed a fair amount of Peter Sis books in my day on Amazon.com, but this is the first book by Sis that I've come across that has so many negative/tepid reviews. Now, before I review a book I give its Amazon.com page a once-over to get a feel for what the public at large thinks about the story. Peter Sis is one of those authors who can write extraordinarily simple books for little children (like "Komodo", "Madlenka", or "Fire Truck") then turn around and do mind-bendingly complex picture books in the same breath (like, "Tibet: Through the Red Box", and "Tree of Life"). "Starry Messenger" was one of Sis' first forays into this combination of complex and simplistic together. As you can see, it wasn't wholly successful. Though still a visually eye-popping wonder and a tale that makes equal concessions to both young and old readers, the story sacrifices fact for simplification in ways that not everyone will enjoy. I believe that while this book is a necessary addition to any Galileo collection, it should certainly not be the ONLY book on that starry-eyed scientist available to your children.

Right from the get-go we are told that the whole notion of the earth moving around the sun is a bit new. People (and here we are shown a lovely Ptolemaic System of the universe) thought the planets, the moon, and the sun moved around the earth. There's a sudden and brief glimpse on the next page of The Copernican System, but the text tells us that Copernicus never published this idea and that, "it would take someone else to do that...". Enter, someone else. Someone else by the name of Galileo Galilei. Born on February 15, 1564 when Italy was just a quilt of city-states, little Galileo grew up with a healthy scientific curiosity.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Frank Murphy on June 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is my favorite picture book! It truly is perfect in every way! Reads aloud well and is great to read over and over again! I attached a magnifying glass with a ribbon to some copies in my class, so kids can study the intricate details in the magnificent illustrations and the (extra) tiny writing along the pages! PERFECT!
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. D. Allison (dallison@biochem.med.ufl.edu) on May 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This children's book is a brief biography of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), which also uses some of Galileo's own words. It is appealing to both children and adults. The text is a celebration of a life devoted to science and of courage in the face of adversity. There are few books of biographies of scientists written for children and this book helps fill that gap. The book was a 1997 Caldecott Honor book (i.e., a runner-up to the Medal winner) for best illustrations in a book for children.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Czecholsovakian author Peter Sis tells the story of Astronomer Galileo Galilei through a picture book filled with beautiful illustrations and celestial metaphor.
The story moves quickly from the theories of Ptolemy and Copernicus to the birth of "a little boy . . . with stars in his eyes." The story goes on with traditional style text at the bottom of each page, and with additional quotes from Galileo's own notebook. The added bonus of strategically placed timelines showing other events of significance raises the story to a new level.
The illustrations, in and of themselves, offer more than the eye can absorb in one sitting, and the fact that the author is also the illustrator is evident in the strength of the pictures tying perfectly to the text.
At the story's end, readers are presented with one last timeline which gives four last dates of significance in Galileo's life: 1633-Galileo is sentenced for heresy; 1642-Galileo dies; 1989-the Galileo spacecraft is launched; 1992-Galileo is pardoned by the leaders of the Catholic Church, who admit that his theories of the earth rotating around the sun, instead of the other way around, is "probably" right.
I used this book in my 7th grade world history class at the end of our unit on the Renaissance. It provided a reality for the students that sometimes is missed in history books, allowing the students to see what the Renaissance, Inquisition, and patronage was like for a real man; my 7 and 10 year old daughters enjoyed reading it too.
I highly recommend this book to parents, teachers and students of all ages!
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