Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

Albert Einstein: A Life of Genius

by Elizabeth MacLeod

The life story of Albert Einstein, the man who opened the Pandora’s box of nuclear energy, is one of the great parables of our age. It’s a hopeful tale of a late bloomer who triumphed spectacularly over a youthful reputation as a klutz and nerd – and it’s also a tragedy about an ethical scientist who helped unleash the most catastrophic misery on the world since the Inquisition: the nuclear bomb.

Last season Frieda Wishinsky’s What’s the Matter with Albert retold Einstein’s story in picture-book form for young readers. Equally engagingly, Elizabeth MacLeod’s new biography in Kids Can’s Snapshot series uses a magazine-style layout. MacLeod, a Toronto children’s writer, has already taken on L.M. Montgomery, Alexander Graham Bell, and the Wright brothers. Now she deftly places Einstein in the contexts of scientific discovery and 20th-century culture.

The richly visual format accommodates both devoted bookworms and kids whose reading is confined mostly to web sites – instead of clicking a link, they have only to turn the page. MacLeod’s text is lively and direct, and she has a knack for making challenging terms like “theoretical physicist” and “electromagnetism” seem like child’s play. Besides a cartoon Albert to guide readers through the high points, there are more than 25 photos of him at various stages, from the velvet-suited child to the shaggy-headed senior scientist in a very cool black leather jacket, scribbling equations. Every page is crammed with intriguing facts, including the little-known one that early in his career as a patent-office clerk, he approved the mould for Toblerone chocolates.