Friday, July 11, 2008

Genius: A Photobiography of Albert Einstein

Marfe´ Ferguson Delano. Genius: A Photobiography of Albert Einstein
64pp. National Geographic 3/05 ISBN 0-7922-9544-7 $17.95
(Intermediate, Middle School)

The “genius” of this photobiography is its portrayal of Einstein, the man, in addition to Einstein, the genius. The photographs, ranging from grade school photos and the neighborhood in the Italian Alps where he frequently played hooky, to an aging Einstein riding a bicycle with wild hair flying, were expertly chosen to portray Einstein as a very human and fun-loving individual. Even in the staid portrait-style photos, one can almost sense a hidden smile waiting to emerge. Each photo is accompanied by a caption or a quote designed to spark the interest of young readers, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world.” The abundant text recounts his life and his groundbreaking discoveries, but more importantly, the thought process leading to his important revelations. On gravitational theory, “If a person falls freely, he won’t feel his own weight.” “What would you see if you could hitch a ride on a beam of light?” On nuclear weapons, he concluded that “organized power can be opposed only by organized power,” prompting his decision to alert President Roosevelt to the possibility of a German atomic bomb.

Genius accurately recounts the amazing phenomena that Albert Einstein was and is, his well-known likeness irreverently used “to sell everything from candy to cola,” his image even found on bobble-head dolls! Despite Einstein’s admission that he gave up playing violin because, “with the passage of years, it has become more and more unbearable for me to listen to my own playing,” Caltech University saw fit to honor him with a violin-playing Einstein gargoyle, pictured on the last page. The final humanizing touch in Genius - a letter from an admirer, “Dear Mr. Einstein, I am a little girl of six. I saw your picture in the paper. I think you ought to have your haircut, so you can look better. Cordially yours, Ann G. Kocin.” Albert Einstein, Time magazine’s Person of the Century, took it all in stride.

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