Tuesday, March 10, 2009

George's Secret Key to the Universe

George's Secret Key to the Universe
By Lucy & Stephen Hawking
Random House Children's Books
Published in 2008
ISBN-13: 9780552559584
304 pages

First Sentence: Pigs don't just vanish, thought George to himself as he stood staring into the depths of the very obviously empty pigsty.

The author, Professor Stephen Hawking, is a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge and a leading theoretical physicist in the world. He also wrote the multi-million worldwide bestseller A Brief History of Time. Together with his daughter, Lucy, they wrote George's Secret Key to the Universe. I picked up this book because I like science and astronomy is one of my favourite subjects.

The book mixes fiction and facts giving readers an exciting adventure story. First, the story. George is a young boy who likes technology and wants a computer more than anything else. But his parents do not like modern inventions and want to live a simpler life. They wash their clothes by hand, use candles in place of electricity, and so on. All George has for himself is his pet pig, Freddy.

One day, Freddy goes missing and George goes looking for him. He ends up in his mysterious neighbour's house. There, he befriends Eric and his daughter, Annie. Eric is a scientist and he owns a super-computer named Cosmos. George's life suddenly becomes very exciting.

For a glimpse of what the book offers, read some of the interesting space bits by Annie:

"There are eight planets orbiting the Sun. Four are huge and four are small. The huge ones are Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus. But the two biggest are so much bigger than the others that they are called the Giants. Saturn is the second of the Giant Planets, and the biggest one of all is Jupiter. The four small planets are Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury," she continued, ticking them off her fingers."The Earth is biggest of the small ones, but if you put these four together into a ball, you still wouldn't get anything nearly as big as Saturn. Saturn is more than forty-five times bigger than these four planets added together."
Our Universe is truly amazing. Awesome. More than just stories, Cosmos the super computer is able to whisk George to any part of the Universe. There is even a time when George and Annie get themselves into trouble by travelling into outer space without Eric's knowledge.

No story is complete without a baddie. Unknown to the trio, there is someone else who wants Cosmos for himself. He plotted for Eric and George to be sent to a black hole. As we all know, nothing ever comes out after entering a black hole. Will Eric and George survive it? You will have to read the story to find out.

This is a good adventure for young readers. The illustrations by Garry Parsons, an award-winning illustrator of many books, makes the book even more interesting. There are many colourful pages of space images including planets, comets, nebula, and galaxies that make the book informative. The book is also peppered with notes about the black hole, particles, the moon, and many more.

The authors did a great job integrating fiction and facts making it an enriching read for children and adults alike. I find myself referring back to the colour pages because the planets and our Universe are just awesome! For more space adventures, please visit http://www.georgessecretkey.com/. Have fun!