Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kid Konnection: Book Review of Odd Boy Out, Young Albert Einstein

Every Saturday, Julie from Booking Mama hosts a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books.  

Boo was very into biographies this summer (and still is), so when I was perusing that particular section of the children's library, I was thrilled to discover this picture book about Albert Einstein's struggles as a young boy.

Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein
by Don Brown
published September 2004
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Age Range: 5 to 8

We're approaching the point (actually, we're there) with Boo where he is beginning to realize he is different than other kids.  He knows he has Asperger Syndrome, that his brain sometimes "works differently," but sometimes it is a hard concept to comprehend.  (Sometimes it is for us as adults.)   So, I tend to look for books that reinforce the idea that it is OK to be different and how to cope with "a brain that sometimes works differently than others" (as we tell him, when the subject of his differences comes up).
I usually go to the library with Betty when Boo is at his social skills group on Tuesday evenings, so this happened to be one that I chose for him. I wanted him to identify with some of Einstein's struggles mentioned in the book.  
Albert's interests aren't quite the same as those of other kids. He builds houses of cards "fourteen stories high," dislikes sports, practices the violin, and is fascinated by a compass ("He turns it, tilts it, tips it, and yet the gadget's needle always points north! What 'hidden thing' makes it work? he wonders.") 
People familiar with autism are also familiar with the claims that Einstein was autistic. Although autism isn't mentioned specifically or by name in Odd Boy Out, there are enough characteristics of the behaviors indicative to the autism spectrum to be familiar. There's his "single-minded attention" to preferred activities, his friendship ("a rare thing for Albert") with a medical student named Max Talmud that Albert's parents invited to their home, an explosive temper, the dismissal of teachers who tell him that he will "never get anywhere in life."  
The book's lesson for young kids (and adults) is that despite all these obstacles, Albert does, indeed get somewhere in life (obviously!) and that the things he thinks about become important discoveries for all of us.
"For scientists, Albert's discoveries mean the photoelectric effect, theories of relativity, and E = mc2.
For the rest of us, his ideas mean automatic door openers, television, space travel, and atomic energy.
For Albert, his work earns him a great award, the Nobel Prize.  He becomes famous, but to him fame is like the hubbub of his parents' parties, something to be ignored while he enjoys wonders and puzzlements of his own invention. 
For the world, Einstein comes to mean not fat baby, or angry child, or odd boy, but great thinker."
Something for all of us - young and old - to think about.
copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Julie P. said...

This book sounds terrific and I love that allows children to see that there are all types of successful people!

Laura Fabiani said...

Sounds like a great book! When I read this post I couldn't help thinking about the movie Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium, which my kids and I absolutely love. Some the characters in the movie are different and this is seen as special and magical. Have you seen it?

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Julie P. ~ it is, and hopefully I'll have another one like this coming up soon for Kids Konnection.

Laura ~ Haven't seen that one, but I'd like to. My kids don't seem to have much interest in it, unfortunately. It looks really cute, though.