Einstein has long been the go-to guy when you think “genius,” but he was once simply the adored baby of doting parents. That’s where Jennifer Berne’s new picture-book biography begins, and this baby Einstein positively glows, radiating love and intelligence. Berne’s engaging text follows Albert through his childhood, administrative day job and eventual worldwide acclaim, but her emphasis is on his exhilarating contemplations of the universe. When a young Einstein notices the sunlight as he bicycles in the countryside, he wonders, “What would it be like to ride one of those beams? And in his mind, right then and there . . . he was racing through space on a beam of light. It was the biggest, most exciting thought Albert had ever had.” The ever-inventive illustrator Vladimir Radunsky — inspired to take liberties with the natural laws that Einstein pondered — presents Albert riding serenely, hands free, upward on a sunbeam. Berne discusses both Einstein’s style (comfortable clothes, no socks, long wild hair) and his tremendous substance. She explains how intently he read about numbers and concepts before he “helped prove that everything in the world is made of atoms.” Radunsky playfully switches to a primitive Seurat-pointillist style for these pages, as if the little dots were the atoms that form everything. Berne goes on to introduce Einstein’s meditations on motion, time, space and the speed of light, but she also makes clear that he left behind many more mysteries to be solved.

Abby McGanney Nolan


A Story of Albert Einstein

By Jennifer Berne. Pictures by Vladimir Radunsky

”On a Beam of Light” by Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky (Chronicle)

Chronicle. $17.99. Ages 6 to 9.