On a Beam of Light


Although Albert Einstein’s parents were warned by his school that their son would ‘never amount to anything’, they had faith in their son. What’s more, they recognised that his curiosity about the world around him suggested something out of the ordinary. It meant that he trembled at the possibility of magnetism within a compass, and was inspired by sunlight when cycling in the countryside. Thereafter, he researched beyond the knowledge that was available about subjects such as gravity.

Despite setbacks, such as not being able to find a teaching job, and working in a dull government office, Albert Einstein found possibilities in the world around him. It meant that as he watched sugar dissolving in his ‘hot tea’, he wondered how it happened. He was intrigued about how smoke from his pipe evaporated into the air. ‘How could one thing disappear into another?’ He worked at figuring it out, to consider that ‘everything is made of atoms’, then that ‘everything is always moving‘ through ‘space, through time’. Yet how to show this?

On a Beam of Light is a thorough, empathetic, inspiring and absorbing examination of one of the greatest thinkers of all time. Jennifer Berne retells his story so that we are drawn in and delighted and awed by his dedication and achievements. What’s more, we realise his individuality, and appreciate this.

Vladimir Radunsky’s illustrations are pen sketches across marbled pages. He gives the impression of movement, of Einstein’s thinking and absorption and delight in the world.

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On a Beam of Light

A Story of Albert Einstein

Jennifer Berne, pictures by Vladimir Radunsky

(Chronicle Books)

Albert’s parents waited for their son to speak until he was three. They were aware of his curiosity, the way he seemed to stare and wonder. Then again, when he was ill, he received a compass which intrigued him so much that ‘his body trembled‘. What’s more, it seemed to start his need to ask questions. Unfortunately this enquiry led his teachers to state he was disruptive and ‘would never amount to anything unless he learned to behave like all the other students’. 
However, Albert Einstein was unlike other students. Not only did he question more, but he seemed to wonder further. Thereafter, when he was ‘zipping through the countryside on his bicycle‘ he was inspired to imagine himself ‘racing through space On a Beam of Light’. Thereafter, this thinking inspired him to dream, wonder, ‘read and study’, to consider ‘light and sound‘ and ‘heat and magnetism’. What’s more he was absorbed by the nature of ‘gravity, the invisible force that pulls us down- and keeps the moon from floating away’. 
Jennifer Berne leads readers into the early mind and later development of one of the world’s greatest thinkers and scientists. As with  On Wings of Words, she absorbs us so that we feel we know our subject and empathise with them.
Furthermore, Vladimir Radunsky’s pen and ink, sketched, seemingly ‘rushed’ pictures, offer a sense of the urgency of Einstein’s enquiry and depth of understanding. All in all, On a Beam of Light is an entertaining, revealing portrait of a pioneer and trail blazer.


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