________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 4 . . . . October 15, 2004


Rescuing Einstein's Compass.

Shulamith Levey Oppenheim. Illustrated by George Juhasz.
Vancouver, BC: Tradewind Books, 2003.
32 pp., cloth, $22.95.
ISBN 1-896580-31-9.

Subject Heading:
Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955-Juvenile fiction.
Sailing - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.

Review by Lori Walker.

*** / 4


Theo decided this was a fine moment to ask his questions. He took a deep breath.

“Yes?” Professor Einstein asked. How did the Herr Professor know he was going to as a question, Theo wondered.

“Why are you the most famous man alive and what does a physicist do?”

Einstein didn't answer right away. He put his hand into his pocket. “Hmm... it has fallen through a hole in the lining,” he muttered. Then the most famous man alive threw back his great head and laughed and laughed. Theo was glad to see him laugh, but he didn't understand.

“What has fallen through a hole in your pocket?” Theo asked, as politely as he could.
“Something that will help explain what a physicist does. Himmel!” boomed out the Professor.


Rescuing Einstein's Compass is a lovely old-fashioned story about a young boy's encounter with celebrity, an encounter that enriches rather than disappoints. The setting appears to be the 1920's where young Theo is introduced to Albert Einstein by his mother and father. To get to know each other, Theo and Herr Professor Einstein set out on Theo's small sailboat where a compass given to Einstein by his father when he was five years old inspires a discussion of how compasses work. When the compass falls into the water and is rescued by Theo, the young boy enjoys an even closer connection to the man and the forces of nature that are the physicist's objects of study. Theo's small act of heroism and Einstein's quirky carelessness become a special bond between them.

internal art

     An interesting real life connection between the author and Einstein will be an additional point of interest to young readers. In a note at the end of the story, Shulamith Levey Oppenheim writes that her husband met Einstein as a young boy and that he had indeed been given a compass as a five year old. Other brief anecdotes provide insight into the scientist and his contribution to understanding the relationship between time and space.

     The book, itself, has the old fashioned, dreamy quality of the text, with impressionistic watercolor and ink artwork in soft pastel colours. It could be a lovely read-aloud to complement a science curriculum or a bedtime story with its simple plot infused with gentle introductions to physics.


Lori Walker is completing a Master's degree in Children's Literature at UBC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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