Dennis Brindell Fradin, Author, Cynthia von Buhler, Illustrator , illus. by Cynthia Von Buhler. Mondo $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59336-006-1

Late-medieval–style panels by Von Buhler (Little Girl in a Red Dress with Cat and Dog ) give this biography a vivid sense of the world Copernicus's discovery overturned; with their static figures and gold edges, they might almost be a series of altarpieces. Scarcity of biographical material about the astronomer makes writing a compelling account a tall task, though, and children who aren't already curious about the solar system may find the story dry. Fradin (The Signers ) gives a straightforward account of Copernicus's early years, tracing the astronomer's insight into the planet Mars and its curious backward movement to an observation he made as a boy, riding in a wagon: "To a person moving fast, someone moving more slowly can appear to be going backward." How did Copernicus escape censure, and how did his ideas finally gain respect? The text doesn't shed much light ("But the truth couldn't be held back forever. Little by little, proof of the Copernican system was found"). Fortunately, Von Buhler's paintings exert a gravitational pull of their own. When Newton famously said, "If I have seen further than others, it was because I stood on the shoulders of giants," he meant Copernicus and other early astronomers, Fradin states. In Von Buhler's panel, Copernicus gazes, clear-eyed, at the viewer, while out of his shoulders grow trees of reason, Newton and his apple in the branches of one, and Galileo and his telescope in the other. Readers will come away grasping the concept of intellectual history. Ages 7-12. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 02/16/2004
Release date: 11/01/2003
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