Genre: Science Fiction
Author(s): Lucy Hawking, Stephen Hawking
Illustrator(s): Garry Parsons
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: 08/28/2012
Hard cover Price: $18.99
Reading Level: 8-12
Read Aloud: 10
Read Alone: 10
Other Choices: Earthling!, A Confusion of Princes, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Hitchhiker's Guide Series, Book 1
Synopsis: Odd mix of cartoony space exploits and cutting-edge science.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that George and the Big Bang is an odd mix of goofy sci-fi adventures and nonfiction essays by famed British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and his author daughter, Lucy Hawking, that address the latest theories about time travel, quantum mechanics, and the origins of the universe. The youngest readers aren't likely to glean much from the mind-bending essays, while the older ones may find George's exploits too cartoony. Not much violence -- one kid subdues the villain with a single karate chop, and the threat of a bomb explosion hangs over the second half of the book.
- Families can talk about how George and the Big Bang promotes the idea that the scientific method is crucial to understanding how everything from galaxies to sub-atomic particles work.
- Why do various groups actively oppose scientific inquiry? Why, for example, is there controversy about the experiments performed at the Large Hardon Collider in Switzerland?
- How do various religions view the Big Bang Theory? Is it possible to believe in the Big Bang and to believe in God?
What's the story?
Distracted by having to find a new home for his pet pig and by his best friend Annie's sudden interest in a new boy, George is eager for an adventure of his own. When he uses Cosmos the supercomputer to follow Annie's father, Eric, to the Moon, he unwittingly creates an opportunity for Eric to be discredited and kidnapped by protesters who object to his work on the Large Hadron Collider. In trying to save Eric, George and his friends journey to a far-flung galaxy, to a strange house with an unguessable location, and to a booby-trapped underground lab.
Is it any good?
Like the Hawkings' previous George books, George's Secret Key to the Universe and George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt, GEORGE AND THE BIG BANG presents a strange mix of fact and fiction. This book's short essays about the creation of the universe, string theory, quantum mechanics, dark matter, and gravity are sophisticated, yet comprehensible, at least to older readers with some background in science. The fast-paced sci-fi exploits of George and his friends are clever and fun but cartoonish, sometimes seeming to rely more upon magic than upon plausible science. It's hard to imagine how many readers will be satisfied with both modes of discourse, but George and the Big Bang manages to be both silly and profound.
The Good Stuff
Messages: George and the Big Bang promotes the importance of the scientific method: of making observations, forming hypotheses, performing replicable experiments and building rational conclusions. The authors emphasize that, even though there many mysteries about how the universe works, humankind probably has the capability to solve them eventually.
Educational Value: George and the Big Bang contains an impressive amount of nonfiction material about the latest theories regarding quantum mechanics, time travel and the origin of the universe. Because the plot deals directly with the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson (the so-called God particle), the book will be especially relevant in light of recent scientific discoveries.
Role Models: George, his friend Alice, and her new friend Vincent all exhibit bravery and ingenuity as they attempt to rescue Alice's missing father. George is somewhat impulsive, however, and his willingness to jump through a portal and explore the Moon on his own would be alarming, if the sci-fi portions of this book weren't so cartoonish.
What to watch out for
Violence The threat of a bomb explosion hangs over the second half of the book, but it is not treated in a particularly realistic or scary fashion. One of the young characters subdues the villain with a single karate chop.
Sex: Not an issue
Language: The acronym of the villainous organization in George and the Big Bang, is TOERAG, a joke likely to be lost on readers in the United States who are unfamiliar with the now-obscure British insult.
Consumerism: Not an issue
Drinking, drugs & smoking: Not an issue