I, Galileo by Bonnie Christensen
The first thing that caught my eye about I, Galileo was on the cover. The title itself is spelled out in glittery, sparkly stars above the head of Galielo glimpsing the heavens through his telescope. The endpapers include a map showing different cities in Italy that are included in the story. An illustration of the Universe of Aristotle and Ptolemy shows what was believed to be true in 1564; that Earth was at the center of the universe followed by each of the planets out to Saturn (which does bring up the point that in 1564, Pluto was also NOT a planet…so perhaps they were on to something there) with the sun at the outer edges of the universe. That would be mighty chilly, folks.
I, Galileo begins with Galileo near the end of his life, blind and imprisoned, on “house arrest.” From there, Galileo tells us of his own childhood when he was the center of his parent’s universe. His father was a musical theorist whose views challenged tradition. His father insisted that, “A person must be allowed to ask questions and seek answers in search of truth.” Galileo reminds me of Steve Jobs (I know this is a bit of a stretch) in that he went on to great success after not finishing a traditional education. Galileo challenged many of Aristotle’s teachings and even proved them, but people would not agree and he became quite unpopular. Galileo went on to Padua to continue his teaching and explorations of new ideas. The illustrations with inset of some of Galileo’s inventions like a compass and sketches of his early telescope help the reader understand how these inventions helped the people of the time in a revolutionary way. Through use of the telescope, Galileo was able to observe the night sky in a way no one ever had before. Though Copernicus had proposed a sun centered universe 50 years before Galileo’s birth, he hadn’t been able to prove it. Galileo lectured that he could prove it. But he knew what the consequences could be for even talking about such ideas. Imprisonment and death. Galileo turned to reversing his telescope and created a microscope, studying much smaller objects. Seven years later, Galileo’s friend became Pope and granted him the freedom to discuss the theory of a sun-centered universe as an idea, but not the truth. He went on to publish a book discussing both theories on the earth’s placement in the universe, but the Pope’s advisor’s persuaded him that he was portrayed as a fool in the book. As a result, Galileo was imprisoned for the remainder of his days and his writings were banned. On the page with this information, there is a circular picture with Galileo in the center standing trial in Rome with a light (the sun) shining down from the ceiling. This page seems so symbolic with the shape of the main illustration, the sun shining, Galileo’s centrist position, and the surrounding color, like a dark night sky with broad brush strokes. And so, the story ends as it began with Galileo as an old man in his garden under the open sky. At the end of the book, a Chronology is included as well as an outline of Galielo’s Experiments, Inventions, Improvements, Astornomic Discoveries, a Glossary, Bibliography, and Websites to find more information.
Bonnie Christensen does an excellent job of bringing I, Galileo to life. Her illustrations complement the text and the times it represents.
Published 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review it.