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Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids Review by Laurie Gauger

His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Thought Experiments
Jerome Pohlen
Chicago Review Press

Did you know, that it was during this week, on March 14, 1879, that famed scientist Albert Einstein was born, in Ulm Germany? At that time, no one would have guessed that this child, who was referred to as "der Depperte" (the dopey one) by a family maid, would grow up to be one of the greatest minds who ever lived.

Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids - His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Thought Experiments, is a book written for ages 9 and older. As I considered into which genre to sort this work, I realized that this softcover account written by Jerome Pohlen cannot be pigeon-holed into a single category. Textbook, Science, History, Biography...all aspects are included within the pages of this historical paperback, and I wouldn't even limit its audience to the juvenile set. The glossy pages filled with photographs of Einstein, his family, and contemporaries, draw the reader into what was a fascinating life.

Immediately following the Table of Contents, is a detailed time line highlighting the major events of Albert Einstein's life, beginning with the marriage of his parents in 1876, and ending with his death in 1973. It's interesting, and perhaps even sobering, to see a person's life broken down in a manner that looks so tidy, and I'm sure that many books present Einstein's existence in a similar way, as a time line. That's what makes this compilation so engaging. Pohlen provides the backstory, the early years, the struggles. All of this information helps complete the picture of a man who was and is still revered by the world, but is also very human, and subsequently, relatable.

For example, did you know that Albert Einstein's parents were afraid that their son might be "slow"? He spoke very little as a young child, and when he finally began putting sentences together, it was after a lot of thought and practice. He had very few friends, and was often picked on, and bullied. His teacher told him that he "would amount to nothing". He had a stubborn nature, and a bad temper, which caused more than one conflict, including the loss of at least one job. Additionally, as many of today's college students can relate, upon leaving school, Einstein found it difficult to find employment, and this while struggling to support a young family.

That barely scratches the surface.  Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids tells of his "miracle year", when the "floodgates opened in his mind". The result? Five (now familiar) papers that turned the scientific world upside down:

Paper number one- Light is a Wave and a Particle

Paper number two- The Size of Atoms 

Paper number three - Atoms Exist

Paper number four - Special Relativity

Paper number five - E=mc²

In this modern age, we just accept Einstein's genius for what it is, but scientists of that earlier time weren't as quick to accept them as truth. It would take much thought, and experimentation before they became believers, and this book includes many experiments for kids (and adults) to try. I'll say more about those shortly.

Readers will discover that Albert Einstein became a teacher, and was a quirky, yet popular professor. Unlike most well-groomed educators, he typically showed up to classed looking rumpled, and - here's a fun fact - without socks. Veering away from the highly regimented style of learning that he learned to hate as a child, he encouraged a relaxed environment, including humor, where students were urged to ask questions and interact.

The second half of the book is brimming with as many intriguing details of Einstein. Tales of personal triumph as well as heartache. The collapse of his first marriage. The worldwide fame as his reputation became known. The resistance that grew in frequency and intensity as Hitler and the Nazi party rose to power. The sadness over his son being committed to an institution. Then, as the book wraps up, Einstein's eventual move to the United States, and all of his work and influence on other scientists, including Edwin Hubble. What an amazing legacy.

I mentioned earlier that included within this book are many experiments to perform. In fact, the book opens with the introduction of a type of experiment that Albert Einstein himself regularly took part in - Thought Experiments. One could guess what a thought experiment is, it is one in which a person works out a hypothetical situation in his or head and comes to a conclusion about what will happen. The hands-on experiments found here range from the very simple (as in build a house of cards as high as you can), to the slightly more complex (create a solar eclipse).

There are only eight chapters in this glossy paperback book, and yet it is brimming with a great amount of information and teaching opportunities. An impressive aspect of it, is its ability to be used with a variety of learning styles. It reaches across several subjects. The biography of it is wonderful for Reading. The experiments are great for Science, and Math. And the history speaks to, well, History. And, the many photos are wonderful. A family that is teaching across several grade levels would find this a welcome addition, as it offers something for most everyone of school age.

My twelve and thirteen-year-old daughters and I have loved reading through this book and performing the experiments. There are no fancy materials required. Most of the time, they will be items that you already have in the house, like a deck of cards, dominoes, and even a chocolate bar!

It can be a difficult task to find a resource that works so well with a variety of ages, and learning styles, but I would say that Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids successfully achieves just that.

-Product review by Laurie Gauger, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2018