Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein
Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein

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Annotation: An introduction to the work and early life of the twentieth-century physicist whose theory of relativity revolutionized scientific thinking.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #219261
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition Date: c2004
Pages: 32
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-547-01435-X Perma-Bound: 0-605-34997-5
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-547-01435-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-34997-1
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2003017701
Dimensions: 26 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Young readers won't come away from Brown's newest picture-book biography understanding the theory of relativity, but they will be heartened by the parallels between their own experiences and those of an iconic science guy. The author-illustrator of Mack Made Movies (2003) and other books presents the future Nobel Prize winner as a sallow, sunken-eyed little boy who lingers on the sidelines as other boys roughhouse, spends hours building a house of cards fourteen stories high, and vexes his teachers (one tells him that he would never get anywhere in life). Brown's language dips into vagueness when it's time to describe the mature scientist's contributions, and the accompanying artwork is often disappointingly generic, awkwardly incorporating computer-generated elements that overwhelm the delicate ink-and-watercolor style used elsewhere. Still, this joins Frida Wishinsky's What's the Matter with Albert? (2002) as one of the very few picture-book biographies of Einstein available. Try giving it to older elementary students, who will get the most out of the detailed author's note and bibliography featuring many books for adults.
Horn Book
Brown maintains a delicate tension between his accessible presentation (a straightforward text and uncluttered illustrations) and his extraordinary subject. He carefully and effectively summarizes events, choosing telling details to paint a portrait of an introspective child who struggles in school. An author's note debunks a few myths surrounding Einstein, and a short bibliography rounds out this inspired picture book biography.
Kirkus Reviews
From his birth in Ulm—a spread of rooftops with one speech bubble: "Waaaaaa"—to his early adulthood, Einstein's childhood and youth are humanely and humorously depicted. As the title indicates, the narrative focuses on its subject's oddness, describing both his outbursts of anger and his capacity for single-minded concentration. Einstein emerges as a singular boy, one whose brilliance was masked by poor performance in school. There is no real attempt to explain Einstein's theorems, delivering just enough to serve as an introduction for primary graders. Illustrations are mostly classic Brown: loose ink-and-watercolor cartoons in a muted palette emphasize Einstein as a lone, brooding figure. Two remarkable illustrations, however, give the reader a glimpse into Einstein's brain: first, a tiny Einstein gazes up at a swirling array of geometric shapes—"a wonderwork to him"—and second, Einstein pushes a pram against a surreal backdrop that conceptually joins the structure of the atom to the warping of space and time. Kids won't need to understand relativity to appreciate Einstein's passage from lonely oddball to breathtaking genius. An author's note and bibliography fill out this terrific package. (Picture book/biography. 6-9 )
Publishers Weekly

Brown (Mack Made Movies) shapes an impressionistic portrait of Einstein in his early years, opening with comments of family members gazing upon the newborn (his grandmother says he is "much too fat" and "his mother fears his head is too big"). Writing in the present tense, the author shares anecdotes that reveal young Einstein's character: his temper tantrums scare away his tutor; he brings "a single-minded attention" to such pastimes as building elaborate houses of cards; his parents so encourage his independence that they allow him to wander the streets of Munich alone at the age of four; and the boy early on displays an extraordinary skill at and fascination with mathematics (though other schoolwork bores him). True to the book's title, Brown emphasizes ways in which Einstein fails to fit in with his peers. He dislikes sports, is disturbed rather than excited at the sight of soldiers parading in the street and, as the only Jewish student in school, is taunted by his classmates. The writing occasionally becomes muddy when discussing Einstein's scientific thinking and discoveries ("He says that everything is in motion and when something moves very fast, as fast as light, strange things happen, like clocks running slower and objects becoming shorter"), targeting the book more to kids who identify with the hero's personality traits than to those interested in the man's ideas. But Brown's narrative and appealingly quirky pen-and-ink and watercolor art effectively illuminate the eccentricities and intelligence of Einstein the boy and the man. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 2-5-This well-crafted picture-book biography focuses on Einstein's hard-to-classify brilliance, which led to awesome scientific discoveries, but all too often left him a misunderstood outsider. Brown describes his subject's loving, cultured parents who were frequently nonplussed by their son's behavior and temper. He found himself the "odd boy" at school, and as the only Jewish student, was sometimes taunted by other children. He puzzled his instructors as well; though clearly gifted in science, math, and music, he was an indifferent student in most subjects. Brown's pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations, rendered in a palette of dusky mauve and earthy brown, portray a doubtful, somewhat unhappy-looking child, except for a picture in which he gazes fondly at a compass, a gift that astonishes him as he ponders its mysteries. In many scenes he is marginalized on the sidelines, set apart by color and shading. One dramatic spread features an adult Einstein pushing his child in a carriage, looking small against a backdrop that highlights some of the scientific puzzles that so engaged him. Through eloquent narrative and illustration, Brown offers a thoughtful introduction to an enigmatic man. This book will pique the interest of readers with little or no knowledge of Einstein.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Word Count: 1,178
Reading Level: 4.6
Interest Level: K-3
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.6 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 83512 / grade: Lower Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.4 / points:3.0 / quiz:Q68740
Lexile: 830L

When he was born in 1879, Albert was a peculiarly fat baby with an unusually big and misshaped head. When he was older, he hit his sister, frustrated his teachers, and had few friends. But Albert's strange childhood also included his brilliant capacity for puzzles and problem solving: the mystery of a compass's swirling needle, the intricacies of Mozart's music, the secrets of geometry--set his mind spinning with ideas. In fact, Albert Einstein's ideas were destined to change the way we know and understand the world and our place in the universe. In spare, precise text filled with graceful detail and accompanied by sometimes humorous, sometimes lonely portraits, Don Brown introduces us to the less than magnificent beginnings of an odd boy out. The result is a tender rendering of the adventures of growing up for one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century.

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