Children's books on controversial figures

In preparation for creating our own children’s book about Galileo Galilei, I was given two children’s books to read. The first book, Charles Darwin and Evolution, was about Darwin and his discoveries. The other, Galileo’s telescope, was about the life of Galileo. Both of these books did a good job showcasing the person and the controversy that surrounded them but they did it in different ways.

The first obvious difference between the two books is that Charles Darwin and Evolution reads like a textbook, whereas Galileo’s telescope is a story about children learning about Galileo which seems to make it more kids friendly. Charles Darwin and Evolution is more like a textbook because it is sectioned off into small chapter over each part of Darwin’s life, it has small boxes off to the side that shows you interesting but not necessary information, it has many pictures, and at the end of the book there is a timeline of events. All of these give the book a feeling of a textbook. However, Galileo’s telescope, reads like a book you would read aloud to a child. It has many very bright cartoonish pictures and does not have chapters but it does flow nicely from the history to the children’s dialog. Because of these differences, Charles Darwin and Evolution appears to be a book aimed at older children (fourth or fifth grade), whereas Galileo’s telescope appears to be aimed at younger children (second to third grade).

In both of my books the controversy surrounding the main figure is not glossed over but rather addressed very straightforwardly and objectively. In talking with some of my group members I learned to appreciate this in the books I was given. Some of the books that my group mates had seems to try to disguise the controversy in the book. The only time it was discussed was on the final page behind a flap. This make it look like the controversy had to be included in the book but the author didn’t want it noticed by people. I am glad that neither of my books did that. They didn’t treat either side unfairly, it didn’t try to gloss over the topic and try to make it a non-issue that historically didn’t have any significance.

Of the two books, I personally enjoyed Galileo’s telescope more. I liked that it didn’t feel as if I was being forced to read it (the whole text bookish feeling), I liked the bright animation, and I really enjoyed that it didn’t gloss over the messy things in Galileo’s life. It states that because of financial hardships Galileo had to sell his daughters to a covenant, and discusses the role that Galileo’s attitude played in his life. I also appreciated that because this story is told as if you are watching two children learn about Galileo you hear the children’s questions and answers. I think this would make it easier for children to understand things that would usually just go right over their heads.