Wednesday, May 30, 2012

April Family Pick: Feynman

Feynman coverFeynman still reigns as the coolest physicist, and the Cybils Graphic Novel finalist and graphic biography Feynman by Jim Ottaviani (art by Leland Myrick, coloring by Hilary Sycamore) helps him maintain that reputation. Starting with his childhood bedtime stories, which emphasize process and understanding over vocabulary (and accuracy), the comics follow present his progress from a stance of smug reminiscing, writing as if Feynman were telling these stories about his education, his wives, and his work.

The pictures kept the characters identifiable for me, with Feynman's beaky nose and wavy hair identifying him from high school through the Challenge investigation. Since my weak visual skills often has me scrabbling to identify who is talking in a graphic book, this consistency helped a lot.

P received a copy as his birthday present from his dad, so we made it the April Family Book Club choice, although it took us until almost the end of May to have the meeting.  P actually stalled out in the middle of the book, and I agreed that at age eleven I also would have found the story of Feynman choosing which university department best suited his career dull, and the bits about his girl-chasing and second marriage incomprehensible. So we talked about what age to read things, and then more about his adventures in youth (tricking the guards at the Manhattan Project, finding the bad valve by pretending to read design documents, safe cracking).  We spent a lot of time figuring out the safe cracking parts, in fact.

Overall, we decided it was a good book for YA and up, but only recommend the first half to the elementary crowd. I'm not sure why it's a Graphic "Novel" since it seems to be a nonfiction biography, but then the nursery rhyme book also ended up in this category so clearly I'm missing something.

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