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Galileo Galilei is one of the key figures in the history of science. One of his most famous exploits occurred when he was a young man of 26 at the very beginning of his career. In 1589, he had just been appointed as a Professor at the University of Pisa. Refusing to take Aristotle’s word as final on the behavior of falling bodies, Galileo climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa (actually the bell tower for the cathedral) and dropped various objects of different sizes and weights to test the idea that all bodies fall at the same rate. As it turned out, Aristotle was wrong – a fact which Galileo almost certainly knew before he conducted his very public demonstration.

This is a delightful children’s book by Wendy Macdonald of Australia and illustrated by Paolo Rui of Milan, Italy. It tells the story of Galileo’s famous experiment and makes the story accessible to children by introducing the character of Massimo, who looks to be about eight or nine. Galileo meets Massimo as he crosses the bridge where Massimo has been stationed with a mission to drop food onto the boat owned by his uncle as it passes underneath. Galileo stops to chat with the boy. He is intrigued as he observes that a heavy wheel of cheese and a much lighter loaf of bread land on the deck of the boat passing beneath the bridge at the same time. Massimo is surprised to discover that the young man talking to him is a professor at the University.

Watching Massimo drop food to his uncle from the bridge leads Galileo to begin questioning Aristotle, who stated that heavier things fell faster than lighter things. Massimo thinks about what Galileo has said and conducts his own experiments from the roof of his family’s farmhouse. This leads to a visit by Massimo to Galileo’s offices at the university. From there, it is only logical that Massimo will be Galileo’s assistant when he stages his very public demonstration from the top of the “Leaning Tower.”

Massimo is fictional, but Galileo’s observations and experiment from the top of the Tower are well-documented. The publisher lists this book’s target audience as children, ages 4 to 8. The text could certainly be read to younger children, but I think the history and science involved will be of interest to students through upper elementary and age 10-12.

The illustrations capture the feel of late Renaissance / early modern Italy and the excitement and optimism of the young Galileo as he studies the natural world directly and challenges Aristotle. It was a very important moment in the history of science – and a worthwhile story told in a very entertaining way.

Galileo’s Leaning Tower Experiment is 32 pages, available as a hardback for $16.95 or as a paperback for $7.95 directly from Greenleaf Press.

Highly recommended for your study of the Renaissance, the Age of Explorers, or to go along with Famous Men of the 16th & 17th Century (which has a chapter on Galileo).

– Rob Shearer, Publisher

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Several years ago, National Geographic began publishing a series of World History Biographies targeted at young readers aged 8-12. Each is 64 pages, and (as you might expect from National Geographic) includes lots of illustrations, photographs, and maps. Each title has both an author and an academic/scholar consultant – an expert in the history/culture of the subject – who has worked with the author to insure the accuracy of the text.

The results are impressive. Each of the biographies includes some fascinating details – items that provide insight into character and background. Older readers with an interest in any of these figures will find them an interesting, though quick, read.

Two titles have just become available in paperback: Marco Polo: The Boy Who Traveled the Medieval World and Galileo: The Genius Who Faced the Inquisition.

There are 16 titles so far in the series and eight of them have been released in very affordable ($6.95) paperback editions:

The other eight titles are currently published only as hardback versions (at $17.95 each) on the following figures: Alexander, Julius Caesar, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Saladin, Joan of Arc, Michelangelo, Isaac Newton, Mozart, Anne Frank, and Mao Zedong. As each of these is released in paperback, we’ll add them to the Greenleaf store.

Each of the eight titles linked above is a paperback, 64 pages and sells for $6.95. You can order any of them directly from Greenleaf Press by clicking on the link in this post.

– Rob Shearer, Publisher
Greenleaf Press

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