Starry Messenger


Written and Illustrated by Peter Sis

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1995

Awards: Caldecott Honor

For hundreds of years, most people thought the earth was the center of the universe, and the sun and the moon and all the other planets revolved around it.

The plot in a nutshell:  Galileo studies the stars and informs the world of his findings

Galileo Galilei is curious from a young age and shows an aptitude for math and physics. He looks at the stars through a telescope and writes down his observations about the universe, publishing it in a book called The Starry Messenger.  People become more interested in the stars and they respect Galileo and his teachings, but in sharing his knowledge of astronomy, he goes directly against the Church and he is brought before the Pope to stand trial. He is found guilty of heresy and condemned to spend the rest of his life under guard in his house. But he continues thinking about the universe and sharing what he knows with others. Three hundred years later, the Church pardons him and acknowledges the truth of what he taught.

Author/illustrator Peter Sis writes about the life and work of Galileo Galilei with what feels like a deep respect for the man. The book’s text is written in a very straightforward manner, telling Galileo’s life story with a focus on his astronomical discoveries. In addition to the text and pictures, he includes timelines, factoids and quotes, which are set into the book’s margins in a slanting script font that is sometimes a little hard to decipher and may prove challenging for very young readers.

Chief Philosopher and Mathematician is a pretty impressive job title.

Chief Philosopher and Mathematician is a pretty impressive job title.

The artwork is filled with astronomical and mathematical drawings and seem as though they came directly from 16th century books. I love the diagrams and the details that show more of what life was like for people back then. The images from Galileo’s trial could be a little frightening for young readers as well. All in all, I enjoyed this book quite a bit, but saw it more as a reference book than a book to be read for enjoyment.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that there are often those who refuse to accept the truth. The best people speak the truth anyway.


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