Written in the first person, Christensen’s (Django) vivid biography opens with the aging Galileo Galilei sitting inside his garden walls, sentenced to house arrest. “Though I’m ending in darkness, I clearly recall the sun-filled hours of my early years,” he says as he recounts his life from childhood onward, highlighting his education and scientific discoveries. The explanatory style, accessible language, and diagrams keep science concepts understandable. Oil paint and gouache resist illustrations resemble woodcuts, with thick black outlines and borders setting off deep jewel hues. Particularly compelling is a claustrophobic scene of Galileo facing the Inquisition, the trial displayed in a small circular vignette, surrounded by a vast swirl of evening-sky royal blue—a nod to Galileo’s stargazing—that fills the spread. Foreshadowing time and truth as his rightful judges, Galileo sounds a hopeful note on the last page: “The old man is a prisoner, but the truth? The truth has a way of escaping into the light.” Extensive endnotes include a chronology of Galileo’s life, summaries of his experiments and inventions, a glossary, and bibliography. Ages 8–12. Agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt Agency. (June)
It was Galileo's passion that got him into trouble, but his dedication to finding the truth meant that his work endures. This distillation of the famed astronomer's life focuses on his exceptional talent for scientific inquiry. Christensen uses a first-person narration that brings readers close to Galileo's development as a scholar and a scientist. The narrative recounts his childhood in Pisa ("center of my parents' universe"), surrounded by music and mathematics and encouraged to ask questions in search of the truth. He describes his rise in the academic community and his invention of a calculating compass and "the world's first truly scientific telescope." Finally, he details the events that led to his humiliation and imprisonment for his scholarship in support of a Copernican view of the solar system. Christensen's bold lines and bright, warm gouache wash illustration support every part of the account. The handsome cover and title-page opening emphasize Galileo's particular delight in observing the stars and the movements of heavenly bodies with a telescope of his own design. A small illuminated circle, the room in which Galileo met the Inquisition, is set against a somber blue-black background, a striking contrast with earlier pages showing the warm and heavenly blue of the night sky under Galileo's observation. Maps and diagrams within the narrative help guide readers. A timeline spanning the years both before and after Galileo's life, brief lists of his inventions, experiments and discoveries, a glossary and list of sources extend the work. An accessible, inviting and attractive introduction to Galileo. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)
Following up on her illustrated biographies for older readers (Woody Guthrie, The Daring Nellie Bly, Django), Bonnie Christensen dials back several centuries in I, Galileo, demonstrating once again how a well-conceived and executed picture book can deliver a serious storyin this case, of one of history's great independent thinkersin a beautiful, enriching way for those readers who've supposedly "moved on" to chapter books.
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, April 23, 2012:
“The explanatory style, accessible language, and diagrams keep science concepts understandable.”
The New York Times, June 20, 2012:
"Bonnie Christensen dials back several centuries in “I, Galileo,” demonstrating once again how a well-conceived and executed picture book can deliver a serious story . . . in a beautiful, enriching way. . . . [A] fully realized, humanized portrait."
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2012:
"An accessible, inviting and attractive introduction to Galileo."
Gr 3–8—Narrated by "the father of modern science"' himself, this exquisite picture-book biography conveys both the tragedy and triumph of Galileo's life's work. A preface describes what the world was like in 1564, opposite an illustration of the universe as Aristotle and Ptolemy believed it to be, with Earth at its center. The child of a musical theorist whose "revolutionary views challenged musical tradition and angered authorities," young Galileo learned to question accepted theories and think for himself. Christensen allows her subject to relate his story sequentially, also expounding on popular thought and detailing his experiments and discoveries. While Copernicus is credited for promoting the theory that the sun was the center of the universe 50 years earlier, it was Galileo who proved it. The inventor of the geometric and military compass, a telescope that revealed the heavens, a microscope, and a pendulum clock kept quiet for seven years, but when he dared to publish his findings, he was condemned for heresy and sentenced to imprisonment in his own home for the rest of his life. A chronology of Galileo's life as well as of important events in his world, a description of his experiments, and lists of his inventions and discoveries are appended. The vibrant illustrations were created with a gouache resist and oil paints, outlined in black and resemble stained glass. The first-person narration renders the text both engaging and accessible; charts, diagrams, and thumbnails explicate the science. Libraries that already own Leonard Everett Fisher's Galileo (Atheneum, 1992) or Peter Sís's Starry Messenger (Farrar, 1996) will still want this accomplished volume.—Barbara Auerbach, PS 217, Brooklyn, NY