These two books about Galileo are quite different, but make good companions for reading about the great man.
Starry Messenger by Peter Sis is the more complete of the two; it is a brief biography of Galileo’s life focusing on his major discoveries and work in astronomy. Galileo’s Journal by Jeanne Pettenati centers on a time period of about 9 months in which he made most of the discoveries he is well-known for and that he used to write his work, Starry Messenger, detailing the evidence for a heliocentric universe.
Of the two, I liked the Sis book better. It won a Caldecott award and deservedly so. The illustrations are beautiful and he uses quotations from Galileo woven into the illustrations in beautiful script. The Sis book also delves into Galileo’s trial and imprisonment by the Church. I didn’t like that Sis seemed to portray that Galileo was fighting against Scripture and not the Church. It can read a bit as Galileo vs. God. For us though that just led to a good discussion about science and God and the difference between the Church/religion and God.
The Pettenati book is a less complete story but perhaps more fun. Through fictional journal entries she tells how Galileo made some of his major discoveries. The addition of a fictional dog (Luna) is cute . I thought she does a good job of making the science interesting but I didn’t like the journal format. The “voice” of Galielo comes across as modern in the phrasing which bugged me. The science is still accurate and Pettenati does include a author’s note at the end that tells about Galileo and what things in the book are fictional and what are historically accurate.
Both these books are a good introduction to Galileo for an elementary student but if you are only going to read one, I’d go with the Sis book.
For more non-fiction book recommendations, check out Nonfiction Monday at Great Kid Books.
And although I don’t believe in reincarnation, I can’t hear the name Galileo without also hearing this song.