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Using Literature to Engage Gifted Students in Science

Written by: Christina Barber


There are few scientific figures as beloved and universally recognized as Albert Einstein. Known for his groundbreaking work in physics, but also for his humanitarian efforts during and post WWII, he is someone that my students often look up to. My third selection is in the Science - Questions & Answers series is the delightful adventure of a small mouse through space and time. Torben Kuhlmann has quickly become one of my favourite children’s authors with his beautifully, detailed illustrations and fantastical stories based in some of humankind’s most influential scientific moments.



EINSTEIN: THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY OF A MOUSE THROUGH SPACE AND TIME BY TORBEN KUHLMANN


The Story:

In Einstein: The Fantastic Journey of a Mouse Through Space and Time, one little mouse’s journey to a cheese fair turns into an incredible voyage through time. When the little mouse arrives at a much anticipated cheese festival only to find out he is a day late and has missed the whole thing, he descends down a rabbit hole looking for answers about the nature of time. Using his reasoning skills and knack for ad-hoc experimentation, the little mouse plays around with clocks in a bid to turn back time. While he isn’t successful, he realises that there must be more to time and so he seeks out an expert, finding himself in a mouse watchmaker’s shop. The old watchmaker leads our little mouse further down the rabbit hole, learning about the history of time and timekeeping. However, the nature of time and how to play with it is a little more difficult to answer and our protagonist’s unanswered questions will lead him to discover the work of Albert Einstein, at the patent office in Bern where he once worked. The little mouse’s inquisitiveness and work will pay off in then end and his little time machine will work, too well, hurtling him back to 1905. With a little help from Einstein himself, the minuscule hero who starts out with some pretty impossible questions, will find some pretty extraordinary answers along the way. Cute, adventurous, and filled with an insatiable curiosity, Torben Kuhlmann’s protagonist might be small, but don’t underestimate his ability to uncover some of the biggest secrets of the universe.

What I love:

The story itself is full of time-travel and makes for a great introduction into the realm of Science-Fiction. However, as a teacher, it’s the appendix that is the real bonus. Kuhlmann’s explanations of general relativity is illustrated and accessible to young children keen on finding out more about how space and time work.



Einstein: The Fantastic Journey of a Mouse Through Space and Time by Torben Kuhlmann © NorthSouth Books, an imprint of NordSüd Verlag


In the classroom:

* NorthSouth has put together a fantastic teacher resource guide with activities: https://northsouth.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Teachers-Guide-Einstein-6P.pdf * Philosophy: What are the problems with time travel? A great way to explore the paradoxes of time travel: The Grandfather Paradox, The Bootstrap Paradox, The Predestination Paradox. My students love talking about all of these and we have had great discussions when looking at other time-travel stories. If you read the story more than once, you will be able to pick out the Easter Eggs that mark the mouse’s travel through time.

* Research: Who was Albert Einstein? What happened during his career? How was his life shaped by war? * Historical reflection: Modern technology plays a big part in this story and poses its own difficulties once the mouse goes back in time and loses access to a computer. How did mathematicians and scientists make calculations before the advent of modern computers?

* Reflection/Creation: If you could go back in time, would you? Where would you go? Write a short story where the main character time-travels.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Torben Kuhlmann studied illustration and communications design at the Hamburg University of Applied Science, with book illustration as his main subject. In June 2012 he finished his studies by writing and illustrating the children’s book Lindbergh—The Tale of a Flying Mouse. This was his first picture book, and within a very short time it became a best seller. It has now been translated into more than thirty languages. Further mouse adventures followed with Armstrong (2016), Edison (2018), and Einstein (2021), all of which have achieved cult status.



Publisher: NorthSouth Books Publishing date: Sept. 2021

Language: English

Softcover: 128 pages

ISBN-13: 9780735844445


 

Christina Barber is a writer and educator who lives in Vancouver, Canada. She teaches a full-time gifted program for students in Grades 5-7. An avid reader, she shares her passion for Canadian literature and history through her reviews at The Miramichi Reader and on Instagram @cb_reads_reviews. She has most recently been committed to writing and staging formally innovative single and multi-act plays for her students.


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