Book love: Einstein Edition!

Two books, both about Einstein. The first a picture book about his life and the second a collection of his letters.

On A Beam of Light: A story of albert einstein (2013)

A beautful and quirky picture book written by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. They take us on a journey through Einstein’s life. They explore the big stuff, like how he did not fit in at school, how his parents worried over him, and how his curiosity and imagination lead to great scientific advances. They explore the little stuff too, like the gift that sparked his curiosity as a child, his dislike of wearing socks, his favourite pants and his love of sailing and music.

Why it’s a good read

The book humanizes this great genious, makes it easy to understand his theories, demystifies science, provides hope to kids who think differently, and entertains at the same time! Easy to read and endlessly wonderful to look at. This book is an absolute FAVORITE in our house.

Dear Professor Einstein (2002)

A slim, easy-to-read book edited by Alice Calaprice.  Through correspondence with children from around the world, we learn that Einstein had a great sense of humour, was a reluctant hero, and really did wear fuzzy slippers (photo evidence above).

The book includes a loving introduction by his granddaughter Evelyn Einstein, an essay by Einstein scholar Robert Schulmann, and letteres to and from children from 1928 to 1955.

Einstein’s childhood and education

The book paints a fascinating picture of Einstein’s early years. As you may have heard, this genius didn’t sail through school without any challenges. He had many, including low expectations and physical abuse by teachers.

  • Einstein was a late speaker who “required much time to think before giving his answers” and had a “poor memory for words.”
  • He was mistreated and misunderstood by educators: Teachers would whack him over the hand with a stick if he didn’t answer quickly. In the essay, “Einstein’s Education,” Schulmann writes: “his Greek instructor, angered by a poorly written assignment, predicted that nothing good would ever become of the boy.”
  • He hated school and “the spiritless and mechanical method of instruction, which with my poor memory for words caused great difficulties, which appeared to me meaningless to overcome. For that reason I was prepared to accept any sort of punishment rather than learn to babble something from memory.”
  • Even though his marks were excellent in university, he later described himself as a mediocre student who lacked a “facility in comprehension…a willingness to concentrate on all that is presented [in the classroom], a love of order in order to take written notes on that which is offered in the lectures…”
  • Einstein is described as a student who excelled at making the connection between the theoretical and the practical, “an understanding he could gain without having to memorize endless lists of fact.”

Dyslexic genius?

Was Einstein dyslexic, as claimed by so many? The book doesn’t delve into this topic and many Einstein experts have denied it. I’m hesitant to diagnose people with anything after their death. I do think we can clearly claim him as someone who understands what it’s like to struggle at school (despite being brilliant) and thinking differently.

What’s most interesting to me is those who categorically say he wasn’t dyslexic. They do so based on the mistaken belief that dyslexics aren’t smart and aren’t good at math and science. This isn’t true. Please stop saying this! Einstein was clearly intellectually gifted, and you can be gifted and dyslexic at the same time. Maybe he was 2E (twice exceptional).

Inspiring greatness in others

The letters to and from children around the world show that Einstein valued a child’s curiosity and imagination over marks. This has inspired many generations of children, including my own.

My favourite is his correspondence with a 12-year-old girl who says she is “below average in mathematics.”

His response, “Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics; I can assure you that mine are still greater.”

Why it’s a good read

This is a lovely little book. It’s packed with easy to read, interesting, fact-based information about the world’s most famous physicist, and his kind, thoughtful responses to curious children.

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