Authors and illustrators usually inscribed their works to family or friends, so it's interesting to see something different. This picture book's dedication is to the memory of an until-now obscure child of history, Virginia Galilei (1600-34), who lived in a convent from the time she was 12 until her death at 34. Virginia was the eldest child of Galileo who, along with her siblings, stayed with him when her mother moved out to remarry. It's hard to imagine Galileo coping with children and experiments but somehow he did, apparently by sleeping all day so he could study the skies by night.
Virginia narrates this pleasant, simple story about her early life with the famous scientist. During long afternoons their house is quiet. Her "silent slippers creep" and, in her quilted dress, she "rustle(s) to his study, up wide stone steps." On her father's desk she discovers a box with five objects: two clear lenses, two colored lenses and a feather. She knows these things are "important to his work," so she holds them carefully.
Renaissance Italy is beautiful here as seen through a child's eye (and an astronomer's lenses). Women air rugs over their window sills and mice wander around tiled floors. Galileo's study is cluttered with instruments, books, a crucifix and a Bible. Some illustrations have sea shells or gulls to show that Pisa is on the coast. There are many ways to introduce children to history and art, but a fine picture book such as this, accompanied by a warm voice, has got to be one of the best.