On A Beam Of Light Review



Growing up, Albert Einstein was a genius with an IQ so high that I didn’t try comprehending the answers he discovered.  I’m not a genius, so what’s the point, I figured.  There were kids in my math class who’d probably get it, but they loved math and science. I simply wanted a decent grade and looked forward instead to discussing a book in my literature class.  This same belief in the “untouchability” and mystique of Einstein’s intelligence stuck with me through adulthood, until quite recently.

After reading On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and pictures by Vladimir Radunsky with my children, I have completely revised this view. I hope that my children will instead consider Einstein for the following: not as a man who had all the answers because he was so smart, but a man who was so curious about the world around him that he asked lots and lots of questions.  When one asks enough questions, they are bound to stumble upon some answers.  Whether we understand his theories is irrelevant- what we should focus on instead is embracing Einstein’s simple process for discovering these ground-breaking theories.  This is what I gathered from a children’s book, no joke!  His neverending curiosity also explains why he authored many thought provoking quotes that extend way beyond math and science.

Children’s biographies of famous people often focus a portion (or the entirety) of the book on these people as children.  The intention I think serves as inspiration to the reader that these incredible people often started out in a similar place as the person holding the book.  On a Beam of Light starts at the beginning with baby Albert.  The fact that he didn’t have much speech until he was older was concerning to his parents, but he nevertheless had “big, curious eyes”.  Then, a compass given to him by his father was one of the first catalysts to him that there were mysteries in the universe that he wanted to explore.  When he finally started asking all the questions he had, he was shunned at school for not being obedient and quiet like the other children.  I’m sure glad that when my mother was told by my brother’s teacher that he asked too many questions, my brother never stopped asking his questions- he went into journalism and is currently the editor of a newspaper.

The title of the story refers to one of Einstein’s biggest question- he wondered what it would be like to ride his bike on a beam of light.  It was an idea that led him to many more questions and absorbing himself in books about theories and numbers.  Because he couldn’t find the answers he was looking for, he formed his own questions about the universe.  The book touches on in kid-friendly (and frankly adult-friendly) language the answers he eventually found to his questions.  The whimsical and imperfect illustrations on flecked off-white paper adds to whole allure of the wonderment surrounding Einstein’s life.

Einstein finally gets the recognition that he deserves, but the book still reminds us that even in old age, he still wondered about the world around him.  At the very end, the author reminds the reader that maybe some day you may answer questions still unanswered by scientists by “wondering, thinking, and imagining”.  While very few of us will possess an aptitude for math and science like Einstein, we can ALL possess lifelong curiosity about the world around us.  Maybe your family’s curiosities won’t be related to math and science at all.

Einstein wiggled his toes around, played the violin and got fresh air to help him think better.  To elaborate on that, you might ask your child, “What’s something that helps you think better?”  If they don’t have one, maybe you can help them come up with something they can use at home and at school.  Other questions to consider: What did Einstein like to wonder about? What do you like to wonder about? Do you have any questions that you’d like to ask me right now? It might even be better if you don’t have the answer and can find it together.  At our house, we still need to look into the difference between alligators and crocodiles…

To extend on a regular basis the process of questioning the world around us, you could pin-up questions related to what your kids wonder about (the kids could come up with a cool title for a special bulletin board) or they could put them in notebooks to share with you.  For younger kids, they could draw a picture of something they want to know more about, or you could help write down the information for them.

A note on age recommendations: I refrained from including ages for recommended use, because younger kids can get into books with lots of words and older kids can enjoy books without many.  If attention span’s a challenge, consider paraphrasing, or simply stop reading and start up where you left off another time.  There’s nothing that says you have to read a book from cover to cover in one sitting.  Or, perhaps you could just look at the pictures together (e.g., there’s a picture with young Albert immersed in books- young readers can get value out of that regardless of understanding what it’s about).




9 thoughts on “On A Beam Of Light Review

  • Erin Buhr

    What a lovely review. This is definitely going on our list. It sounds perfect for my son – a constant questioner – and as a reminder for me to work harder on being patient with the never ceasing questions. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • Liz Cave Post author

      Thank you Erin so much for your comments! Parenting with patience is definitely an on-going challenge- this book was as enlightening for me as it was for my children.

  • Julie Grasso

    Loved your review, and I simply must explore this book with my little G when she is a touch older. It sounds wonderful. Thanks so much for inspiring thoughtful questioning. I hope that my little G will be one of those kids questioning everything in class, he he. Thanks for joining the Kid Lit Blog HOp

    • Liz Cave Post author

      Julie- thanks for your kind comments- I’m so happy to be apart of the Kit Lit Blog Hop! The children who are read to a lot like your G are bound to be questioners of the world around them- whether it’s at school or in the home :) I paraphrased some of the longer pages for my young kids, but some of the pages were “just the right size”, so might still be worth checking out- if anything, for your enjoyment :) Made me fall in love with picture book biographies and make it my quest to find more equally as inspiring!

  • Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews

    Great review! I love children’s book biographies. I think they are so inspirational. I was thinking, while reading your review, that as parents we are usually peppered by so many questions from our children about the world around us. Why is the sky blue? How many stars are in the sky? So many! I think it’s important as parents to not dismiss those questions so that kids don’t stop asking them. It’s great that they are curious about the world and I’d hate to think that one day they won’t care anymore. Thanks for linking in the Kid Lit Blog Hop.

    • Liz Cave Post author

      Thanks, Renee! Really appreciate your comments, as it is so important that kids keep asking those questions. Reading this book really makes you appreciate the quality of curiosity- something we all have, but unfortunately often loose over time. I certainly hope my kids never do!

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