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*I, Galileo* by Bonnie Christensen - middle grades book review
I, Galileo
by Bonnie Christensen
Ages 7-11 40 pages Knopf June 2012 Hardcover    

Illustrated in rich warm hues with just a hint of glitter in the night sky, I, Galileo is a beautifully written picture book covering the life of Renaissance scientist and inventor Galileo Galilei.

The setting and tone of the book begin on the endpapers with a map of the world; Italy is disproportionately featured in the center with the important cities in Galileo’s life labeled. The preface and accompanying illustration depict the universe as it was theorized in 1564 by Aristotle and Ptolemy, with the moon and planets revolving around the earth.

The biography begins at the end of Galileo’s life, imprisoned in his own home. He tells his life’s story in the first person, beginning with his childhood, when he learned about music and mathematics from his father and was encouraged to ask questions and search for the truth.

Galileo’s early education took him from a monastery to become a monk, to the university to study medicine. Yet, neither suited him well, and he eventually returned home to study mathematics and teach.

Always rebellious, Galileo questioned many of the common truths of his time, dropping two cannonballs of different weights from the leaning tower of Pisa, proving that weight was not related to the speed of a falling object. His mind was always at work, questioning how things worked, and inventing or improving things which could benefit people such as a time-keeping device, a complex compass, and the telescope.

His observations through the telescope led Galileo to make his greatest and most controversial discovery: the Earth rotates on its axis and is not the center of the universe—the sun is. His observations and mathematical calculations proved the theory previously proposed by Copernicus.

The Catholic Church condemned his teachings as heresy, so Galileo remained silent for seven years while he studied the smallest of life through his newest invention, the microscope. When a friend was elected pope, he wrote a new book, again proposing the evidence for a sun-centered universe. Unfortunately, papal politics intervened, and Galileo stood trial before the Church’s Inquisition for the crime of heresy.

I, Galileo concludes with an afterword, timeline, list of experiments, inventions, improvements and astronomic discoveries, as well as a glossary, bibliography and websites for additional information.

This book is an excellent starting point for research, providing a solid overview of the life of Galileo. It is also a good mentor text for students beginning biographical research as it succinctly centers on significant accomplishments, organizing them to reflect a man’s life, without becoming bogged town with too much detail.

The illustrations not only create the mood and setting but also extend the text, helping the reader to envision the man and the importance of his work. Highly recommended.
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