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Along Came Galileo

Along Came Galileo, Jeanne Bendick
(Beautiful Feet Books, 1999), pb., 95 pp.

The next book after a string of really good books tends to be judged hard- and the Mr. Pipes books were really good! Therefore, it was with some uncertainty we moved to this book on Galileo. It is a brief book, so in our first reading we covered three chapters. After we finished my straightforward nine year old said matter-of-factly, “Well this book is neither exciting nor interesting.” We persevered, but it never really improved. Not only was it not very engaging, it was unclear what age group was its target. The writer paused to explain that a Grand Duke was a really important person (a painfully obvious thing to my 10, 9 and 6 year old), but discussed without any nuance the fact that Galileo was not married but had children with his companion (which was not at all clear to my boys!). All of a sudden I had to explain how this could be so.

Furthermore I was not pleased with the description of Galileo’s conflict with the church. There was conflict, and we have discussed how the church had some wrong ideas at this time (why Luther led a Reformation, etc.). The relation between science and faith is an important one that I want to present well to my children. It does not come across well in this book. Galileo is presented as arguing “that there must be two separate languages- the language of the Bible and the language of science” (64). This may be the way Galileo expressed it (I don’t know), but in a book pitched to children this deserved better handling since a “two languages” approach is often taken today in a way which marginalizes the testimony of Scripture.

In the end we would not recommend this book. It was not engaging and you could get the valuable information from an entry in an encyclopedia. The value of a book treatment is supposed to be in expressing such information in a way which appeals to the children and thus helps them to remember it.

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