Starry Messenger by Peter Sis.
A Story for Children?
Starry Messenger by Peter Sis is supposedly written for children, but I can't say that I would allow a child to read it unless I did not care for that child or for the truth.
It starts out by stating that Copernicus “did not talk about his observations, and he did not publish them for a long, long time.” While this sets the stage for Galileo, the noble scientist who is merely devoted to the truth to mature and then be thrust into the spotlight of fame against his wishes, it’s just not true. Galileo was nothing if not a consummate self-promoter who knew no one smarter than himself and longed to be famous for his intellect and ideas.
Then it happens, the “Church” is introduced. They are worried because he is awesome and is now going against the Bible. There is no mention of this being specifically the Catholic Church, or that he is himself a self-proclaimed “good Catholic”, or that he was granted tons of leeway from the Catholic Church since he had lots of political friends in high places.
Almost as suddenly as the Church is introduced, we cut to poor, innocent Galileo fearing torture and punishment as he stands in a shady scene of disembodied heads, some of the scariest birds I have ever seen, a man being tortured on a rack with spikes running him through, souls in flames and the biggest snake ever to be coiled in a torture chamber. I firmly believe the Catholic Church had a lot of power back then, but I don’t think they had giant snakes on staff.
Now he’s on trial in a whirlpool of demonic zodiac signs, grim reapers and astrological signs. Obviously, the Church found him guilty. After all, he is the hero of this story. He is “condemned to spend the rest of his life locked in his house under guard.”
The book closes with Galileo being pardoned posthumously in 1992 and the Church admitting that he was “probably-in fact, surely and absolutely-right.”
I’m not a personal fan of the Catholic Church, but they really get a black eye in this treatment of the Galileo story. There is no mention of the nuanced relationships and direct political manipulation of powerful people that led to Galileo standing trial before the Inquisition and escaping with his life after disobeying a direct order from the Cardinal who would become the Pope and belittling the same Pope in the book that got him there. All of that may be a little heavy for a book aimed at children, but it is way less inappropriate than images of torture and using very broad brushstrokes to paint Christianity as evil.
The imagery and content of this book does not do Galileo’s story justice. Before reading Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius, I was unaware of how he ended up where he did or even where he ended up as it never entered my realm of doing life. I accepted the generally held idea that he was persecuted by the Catholic Church and silenced. Troublesome Genius really opened my eyes to what kind of man Galileo was and he was not “the noble scientist”. The "Church" as presented is the worst side of what humans do when they are in charge of an organization, we make it about us instead of what it's really about.
"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
"...and the greatest of these is Love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)