Tuesday, April 01, 2008

George's Secret Key to the Universe

Hawking, Lucy and Stephen. 2007. George's Secret Key to the Universe.

I have mixed feelings on George's Secret Key to the Universe. It does have an intriguing first line, "Pigs don't just vanish, thought George as he stood staring into the depths of the very obviously empty pigsty." And I'll admit that it was this first line which prompted me to check it out of the library. It was one of those situations where I picked it up, read the back of the cover, debated if I had the time and energy to read it, but opening it up and reading the first line made my mind up.

The book boasts that it is "an out of-this-world" adventure. And that's partly true. Adventure is what you'll get a good bit of the time. But the adventure always takes the back seat to learning. George is a curious kid, the child of environmentally extreme parents, who becomes fascinated with the next-door-neighbors a man and his daughter. His neighbor is a scientist. And it is his introduction to this scientist and the scientist's invention--a computer named Cosmos--that becomes the catalyst for his adventures and his obsession with all things scientific.

Part of me likes the textbook-woven-into-fictional narrative aspect. Part of me doesn't. The scientific facts (facts, charts, photos, etc) are definitely interesting and intriguing and an intregal part of the storytelling. The novel also spends a bit of time preaching about the environment. The end result is that I feel the adventures are weighed down by the you-should-be-learning-something narration. But and this is a good but, I did enjoy the science-scientific elements. I just didn't need the fictional elements alongside them to get me interested. Maybe their philosophy is that kids would need the fictional aspects. The vitamins disguised as gummy bears mindset. So the science would get a definite four stars. The fictional story/plot would get a three.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Debi said...

Thanks for the review, Becky! I hope our library has this...I think my son might really enjoy it. He'll read anything and everything science, but getting him to read fiction is like pulling teeth. Maybe this would be a good way to pull him in.

Anonymous said...

And according to a friend of mine, the science in this book is, ironically, wrong at times too. So not only is it poorly written, it's inaccurate. Double trouble!

Becky said...

The accuracy (or inaccuracy) wasn't something I'd be able to detect not being of the scientific bent (and not having had any science classes in the past decade). But I did try to find reviews that analyzed it. I couldn't find many reviews in the blogosphere though maybe I could have given up too soon.

Anonymous said...

hey Becky i have a question how old is Annie??

Becky said...

Anonymous, I don't remember if Annie's age is mentioned. If it was, I've forgotten. I believe both characters would be in middle school. Sorry, I can't be more specific.