Reviews for On a Beam of Light : A Story of Albert Einstein


Booklist Reviews 2013 June #1
*Starred Review* It's not easy to explain the work of Albert Einstein to a young audience, but this marvelous book pulls it off. It does so by providing an overview of Einstein's life: the way he thought and how his remarkable ideas changed the way scientists think. Berne begins with baby Albert, who "didn't say a word." And as he got older, he didn't say a word--but he "looked and wondered." When he was a student, his teachers thought he was too different, but his differences led him to think about natural phenomenon like light and numbers in new ways. The book reroutes the text around events in Einstein's life, such as his escape from Nazi Germany and his move to the U.S., and it only touches upon his work on the nuclear bomb. This is a more personal look, but still, it explains how he came to the discovery of atoms and his theories about the speed of light. The text could not have better support than Radunsky's artwork. Executed on textured papers, the stylized watercolors outlined in ink sometimes eschew decoration, with the focus on Einstein and others in his life; other spreads are swirled with words and numbers. The book stresses that readers may someday answer the questions that Einstein didn't get to, and an author's note extends the text with paragraphs about Einstein's pacifism, personality, and thought experiments. A book as special as its subject. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Berne and Radunsky--in a gorgeous piece of bookmaking--use the "biggest, most exciting thought Albert had ever had" as the focal point for their homage to the great physicist. Berne's simple text shows the adult Albert's child-friendly inclinations (ice-cream walks, an aversion to socks), while Radunsky's spontaneous line work creates a sense of movement that perfectly mirrors Albert's endless search for answers.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #3
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. sam bloom

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 April #1
A boy who asked too many questions becomes iconic physicist Albert Einstein, whose questions changed the world. The author of Manfish (illustrated by Eric Puybaret, 2008) presents another dreamer, a man who "asked questions never asked before. / Found answers never found before. / And dreamed up ideas never dreamt before." Story and perfectly matched illustrations begin with the small boy who talked late, watched and thought, and imagined traveling through space on a light beam. Readers see the curious child growing into the man who constantly read and learned and wondered. With gouache, pen and ink, Radunsky's humorous, childlike drawings convey Einstein's personality as well as the important ideas in the text (which are set out in red letters). The narrative text includes several of Einstein's big ideas about time and space; one illustration and the back endpapers include the famous formula. The mottled, textured paper of each page reinforces the concept that everything is made of atoms. A nice touch at the end shows children who might also wonder, think and imagine dressed in the professor's plaid suit. An author's note adds a little more about the person and the scientist. For today's curious children, this intriguing and accessible blend of words and pictures will provide a splendid introduction to a man who never stopped questioning. (Picture book/biography. 6-9) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 June #3

Berne (Manfish) and Radunsky (Hip Hop Dog) create an inspired tribute to Einstein, a man who "asked questions never asked before. Found answers never found before. And dreamed up ideas never dreamt before." The book moves briskly through Einstein's quiet, inquisitive childhood (a magnetic compass helped trigger his interest in the "mysteries in the world--hidden and silent, unknown and unseen") to his accomplishments as an adult. Radunsky's loose, hulking ink caricatures capture the gleam in Einstein's eye at every age. When Berne explains how Einstein helped prove the existence of atoms, Radunsky uses dots to underscore the idea in the accompanying image ("Even this book is made of atoms!" the scientist gleefully explains, breaking the fourth wall). Einstein's lifelong curiosity sings through every page, and Berne emphasizes that readers are heir to that same spirit of discovery. In the closing scene, Radunsky pictures a boy, girl--and dog!--wearing rather Einsteinian plaid suits, staring at a field of question marks with a familiar gleam in their eyes. Ages 6-9. Author's agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Illustrator's agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (May)

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Berne (Manfish) and Radunsky (Hip Hop Dog) create an inspired tribute to Einstein, a man who "asked questions never asked before. Found answers never found before. And dreamed up ideas never dreamt before." The book moves briskly through Einstein's quiet, inquisitive childhood (a magnetic compass helped trigger his interest in the "mysteries in the world--hidden and silent, unknown and unseen") to his accomplishments as an adult. Radunsky's loose, hulking ink caricatures capture the gleam in Einstein's eye at every age. When Berne explains how Einstein helped prove the existence of atoms, Radunsky uses dots to underscore the idea in the accompanying image ("Even this book is made of atoms!" the scientist gleefully explains, breaking the fourth wall). Einstein's lifelong curiosity sings through every page, and Berne emphasizes that readers are heir to that same spirit of discovery. In the closing scene, Radunsky pictures a boy, girl--and dog!--wearing rather Einsteinian plaid suits, staring at a field of question marks with a familiar gleam in their eyes. Ages 6-9. Author's agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Illustrator's agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (May)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 April

Gr 2-6--The name Einstein is synonymous with genius, but what does that mean to a child? Einstein himself would only admit to being "very, very curious." Berne's picture book offers readers few biographical details, focusing instead on the physicist's intellect through the concepts that puzzled and excited him. He was late to start speaking and not particularly verbal-until he received a compass. As the author explains, "Suddenly he knew there were mysteries in the world-hidden and silent, unknown and unseen." And suddenly, too, he was bursting with questions-questions about magnetism, light, sound, gravity, and later, atoms, motion, and time. This was a person who spent his life "imagining, wondering, figuring and thinking." Radunsky's delightful pen-and-ink illustrations on cornmeal-yellow pages flecked with fibers and earth-tone highlights depict events from the man's life, his thoughts, and a few of his quirks. Einstein's old-world European childhood is reflected in the formal dress of the adults that loom over him. In an image that expresses his love of numbers, computations swirl around him. Selected lines in a large, red font add emphasis, and comments in the few dialogue bubbles are handwritten in a scratchy, black line. An endnote adds information on the physicist's thought experiments, his sense of humor, E=mc², and the atomic bomb. When considering an author's approach, Lynne Barasch's picture book Ask Albert Einstein (Farrar, 2005) and Mareé Ferguson Delano's photobiography, Genius (National Geographic, 2005) are noteworthy comparisons to this richly imagined, beautifully designed, impressionistic biography.--Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

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