Reviews for George's Secret Key to the Universe

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Spring
With Christophe Galfard. An amiable supercomputer allows George and Annie to explore space--up close and personal. An evil science teacher provides the requisite peril, but narrative plays second fiddle to a cogent synopsis of the fundamentals of astronomy and physics. The science is enthusiastically described and accessible but poorly integrated into the formulaic story. Includes glossy full-color captioned images of the universe. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 October #1
George's key--unsurprisingly--turns out to be a knowledge of physics, as the young protagonist of this blend of science fact and fiction proclaims after various adventures in space, in school, with a gang of bullies and an evil mad scientist. Raised in a computer-less house by eco-activist parents who feed him broccoli muffins, young George is delighted to learn that his new neighbor, Eric, is a scientist with a moody super-laptop named Cosmos that can both open doors to any charted part of the universe and also control time. George learns about the stellar life cycle, rides on a comet and then, thanks to a recent notion of physicist Hawking's that black holes evaporate (over millions of years), helps to rescue Eric, who has been tricked into falling into a black hole by rival astrophysicist Graham Reeper. George finishes up with a rousing lecture to his peers; Reeper and the bullies depart in high dudgeon. Science lessons are embedded in the thin tale as well as presented in boxed asides. Considering the theme, and that two of the three writers are themselves trained scientists, it would have been nice if they'd gotten their basic facts right and not so blithely set aside the laws of physics whenever convenient to the story. Illustrated with line drawings or star photos on nearly every page and with a 100,000-copy first printing, it's likely to sell well--but like many crossovers, it doesn't show much respect for its target audience. (Fantasy. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 October #1

What better way to interest young readers in science--and specifically in its relevance to the long-term survival of humankind--than for one of the world's most renowned theoretical physicists to put his subject at the center of a children's book? Stephen Hawking, his novelist daughter, and French physicist Galfard create two inquisitive, middle-school heroes, then send them on wondrous adventures through time and space. The characters round out their experiences with information regarding everything from nuclear fusion reactions to neutron stars to the origin of black holes. In this first volume of a projected trilogy, George Greenby--whose technophobic parents have done their best to shelter him from the dangers of the modern world (computers, television, grape soda, etc.)--meets his headstrong new neighbor Annie, her scientist father and his super-computer Cosmos, a machine capable of instantaneously taking the two young explorers anywhere in the universe. His decidedly nave worldview undergoes a breathtaking transformation when he gets the opportunity to ride a comet through the solar system and witness the death of a black hole. The authors handily explore a range of themes, among them, the moral responsibilities of science, global warming and space colonization. Four insets of color photos from outer space and Parsons's cartoons enhance the broad appeal of this book, a true beginner's guide to A Brief History of Time . Ages 8-up. (Oct .)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2007 December

Gr 4-7-- When George's new neighbor, Eric, turns out to be a brilliant scientist with a supercomputer, the boy takes an educational journey through the solar system and discovers how interesting outer space can be. A rival scientist, who also happens to be George's teacher, steals the computer and sends Eric into a black hole, leaving George to save the day. While the boy travels in space and solves a mystery, readers learn many facts about science. Shaded boxes provide background information about topics related to George's adventures, ranging from the planets to organic compounds. There's also plenty of information within the narrative, often in the form of earnest speeches presented as dialogue. Though Eric states that "science is a wonderful and fascinating subject," these lectures bog down the narrative. The plot includes asteroid rides, school bullies, and a black-hole rescue, but never really takes off. Most of the science is described clearly, but the explanations detract from readers' involvement in the story, which also suffers from stock characters, artificial dialogue, and pedestrian plot twists. Plentiful black-and-white illustrations help, as do dozens of eye-catching photographs of outer space in full color, but they are not enough to bring the wooden characters to life. This is a well-intentioned attempt to combine the drama of fiction with the excitement of scientific inquiry, but the fiction is simply too weak to hold most readers.--Steven Engelfried, Multnomah County Library, OR

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