Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Starry Messenger

Starry Messenger

Peter Sis
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996   ISBN: 978-0374371913

There was a time when people thought that the sun and planets revolved around the Earth, a time when they thought that the Earth was at the center of the universe. Then a man came along who wondered if perhaps it was the Earth that moved around the sun instead of the other way round. This man was called Copernicus, and he was a great thinker. Copernicus chose not to share his theory with others, and the world had to wait until a new "star" came along who would show the great thinkers of his time that the earth was not, in fact, at the center of the universe.

This "star" was none other than Galileo Galilei, born in Pisa on February 15th, 1564. Galileo was the kind of young man who wanted to understand the universe and improve on existing theories and technologies. With a brilliant mind at his disposal, Galileo was able to achieve many things. For example he invented all sorts of useful tools such as the compound microscope and the first practical thermometer. He also determined that two falling objects would reach the ground at the same time, irrespective of how big or small they were. This came to be called The Law of Falling Objects.

After building his own telescope, Galileo focused his energies on studying the night skies. It was then that he came to the conclusion that the Ptolemaic system was in fact incorrect and that Copernicus'  "contrary hypothesis" was true. He also studied the moon and the planets, and he published his observations in a book called "The Starry Messenger." His book and his genius soon made Galileo famous all over the known world.

Galileo’s fame and influence unfortunately attracted the attention of the church, whose members were much disturbed by his theories because the ideas called the words of the bible into question. Galileo discovered that challenging the accepted truth was a dangerous thing to do.

With a simple text yet powerful text, Peter Sis has created an excellent picture 'biography' of one the world's greatest thinkers. His illustrations are beautifully detailed and quite unique, showing us the world that Galileo lived in, and offering much information at the same time. This title is a beautiful and thoughtful tribute to a great man.