Review Blog

Jan 24 2019

Albert Einstein by Wil Mara

cover image

Ill. by Charlotte Agar. Penguin Random House, 2019. ISBN 9780241322918.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Albert Einstein is perhaps best known as a remarkable scientist, but he was also a complex human being. He was a brilliant but rebellious student, a patent clerk whose theories about physics and cosmology transformed our understanding of the universe, a Nobel Prize winner, an activist for peace and a refugee from Fascism. Einstein was a pacifist but his warning about Hitler's plan to develop an atomic bomb contributed to the American government's decision to create nuclear weapons.
Wil Mara has incorporated the elements of Einstein' life into an engaging and informative narrative that interweaves the scientist's personal life and experiences with explanations of scientific concepts and political turmoil. Mara's writing is particularly effective when providing insights into Einstein's state of mind, whether it was his childhood loneliness, his lifelong curiosity, his passion for music or his determined opposition to racism and armed conflict. The breakdown of Einstein's first marriage and the regret he felt after atomic bombs were dropped on Japan are described with directness and sensitivity.
Short, well-constructed sentences and a large font facilitate reading by a younger audience. Text boxes which explain scientific theories and historical events, photographs and hand-drawn illustrations add to the reader's understanding without intruding on the narrative. The family tree, timeline, list of characters, glossary and index are useful keys to the text. However, a list of selected references or a brief explanation of the author's research process might have enhanced the book's credibility.
The mark of an effective biography may be its ability to reveal that someone who is celebrated for his extraordinary achievements can also experience doubts and setbacks. If so, then Wil Mara's biography of Albert Einstein has succeeded in explaining the complex man behind the famous name.
Elizabeth Bor

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