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Odd Boy Out


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About the Author

Don Brown is the award-winning author and illustrator of many picture book biographies. He has been widely praised for his resonant storytelling and his delicate watercolor paintings that evoke the excitement, humor, pain, and joy of lives lived with passion. School Library Journal has called him "a current pacesetter who has put the finishing touches on the standards for storyographies." He lives in New York with his family.


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.

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.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Brown maintains a delicate tension between his accessible presentation and his extraordinary subject.
Horn Book, Starred

Humanely and humorously depicted... Kids won't need to understand relativity to appreciate Einstein's passage from lonely oddball to breathtaking genius.
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Readers...will be heartened by the parallels between their own experiences and those of an iconic science guy.
Booklist, ALA Brown at his best as he zeroes in on those telling traits that trim a larger-than-life figure down to size.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Through eloquent narrative and illustration, Brown offers a thoughtful introduction to an enigmatic man.
School Library Journal Brown's narrative and appealingly quirky...art effectively illuminate the eccentricities and intelligence of Einstein the boy and the man.
Publishers Weekly Library Media Connection

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