Tag Archives: Carl Sagan

Physicist, cosmologist, astronaut

3 Dec

I’m currently thinking of revamping my biography unit. This is always daunting because it is so easy and comfortable to do things the way they’ve been done before. But I think this is a necessary step to take to make it better for  both the kids and for me.

I am always on the lookout for good biographies, either chapter books or picture books. It’s the writing that matters. And I’ve found a trio of good ones.

Albie’s First Word, by Jacqueline Tourville and Wynne Evans, is a fictionalized account the oft hear tale of the young Albert Einstein who didn’t talk until after he’d turned three.Unknown

The book goes through the concerns Einstein’s parents had that compelled them to take young Albert to a doctor, who prescribes experiences like taking him to the symphony and exposing him to new places, people and things. The illustrations give context and Albert’s eye are riveting. You can see the wisdom  and curiosity in them that will turn Albie into Albert Einstein. The endpapers are pages from Einstein’s actual notebooks and the Author’s Note provides more detailed biographical information.

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson follows Carl from his days star-gazing from the bedroom window of his Brooklyn apartment, through his love of speculative science fiction novels, to his work as an internationally renowned scientist who worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space.

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The back matter in this book includes an Author’s Note, a bibliography, and source notes. Fortunately, there aren’t billions & billions of them. ha ha.

Finally, for older or more confident readers we have a new biography of Sally Ride.

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Sally Ride: Life on a Mission by Sue Macy goes beyond her role as an astronaut. Did you know that,  in her lifetime, she was also a nationally ranked tennis player, a physicist who enjoyed reading Shakespeare, a university professor, the founder of a company that helped inspire girls and young women to pursue careers in science and math, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom? A readable biography and  an excellent example of a woman who excelled in Science & Math.

Pie vs Pi

14 Aug

A little homage to Mad Magazine in my title today, but let me start with a funny story I heard years ago, which might be a Canadian urban myth.

Many years ago, when a member of the Royal Family was visiting some rural location in Canada  and a dinner of some sort was involved. (I always envision a church basement sort of affair, with lots of folksy rural people about.) When the main course was over and desert was about to be served, the woman serving the royal person is reported to have said, “Keep your fork, Duke. There’s pie.”

I got to thinking about this story while reading Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass. Joss, the main character is the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. his job is to deliver pies. But these aren’t ordinary pies; they are the glue that holds the fabric of the universe together.

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This was an OK read. Here’s the upside:

Mass has created a unique world in The Realms, which exist in dark matter. She tells a great story of friendship and perseverance. I like the cool quotes from scientists that introduce each chapter. And I like that it explains dark matter and gets readers thinking about the nature of the universe and life after death. I also like the fact that Carl Sagan makes an appearance.

The downside is that I wasn’t really that engaged by the story. There seems to be a lot of rushing about and it feels like things are being made up as we go along. I realize that is what actually happens in literature, but the reader isn’t supposed to notice it.

I don’t really see many kids at my school reading this. They might pick it up because they’ve liked Mass’ previous books, but I don’t think most will enjoy this book as much as they did her others.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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