Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Non-Fiction
Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Revealed

Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Revealed

Spring 2017 Non-Fiction
Ages: 10 & Up
Author: Mary Losure
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763670634
Hardcover Price: $19.99

By fifth or sixth grade, most kids know who Sir Isaac Newton was: a genius mathematician and astronomer called "The Father of Physics" who helped instigate the Scientific Revolution in the 17th century.

In Mary Losure's splendid portrayal of Isaac Newton's childhood, readers discover that the small, pale, lonely, unhappy boy, the same who would become one of the most influential scientists of all time, began his curious path to mind-bending discoveries (gravity, laws of motion, calculus) living above an apothecary shop, inventing machines, experimenting with the world around him (see "falling apple" anecdote). And, he studied alchemy, searching for "The Philosopher's Stone" that could turn lead to gold and cure all diseases.

While Losure's creative nonfiction necessarily leans to impressionism over realism, the fact is Newton's scientific basis, at a time before science as we know it existed, stemmed from magic. Eventually, he studied at Cambridge, taught himself mathematics, and figured out the laws that define the physical world.

The author takes some liberties to flesh out the reclusive personality of this wunderkind, and to create a nonfiction book that reads like a novella, but the story actually draws on primary materials, including young Newton's tiny notebook, as well as biographies over centuries. Primary-source Illustrations and old engravings, and better yet actual pages from young Isaac's notes, are a bonus.

For budding scientists, this book is a must-read; for anyone else, it's just plain fascinating.

Don Oldenburg   ©2017 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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