George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy & Stephen Hawking

Audiobook cover, showing a boy in a spacesuit riding on a comet
Cover of the audiobook of George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy & Stephen Hawking. Simon & Schuster

The Bottom Line on George's Secret Key to the Universe

Recommended for kids, but not for adults. The story in this book is a bit contrived, but as a book intended to teach children the basics of astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, and other principles that govern our universe, it does a fair job.

Pros

  • Great scientific descriptions included throughout the book, especially of planets and other objects.
  • Discusses the ethical aspects of science and its responsible use.
  • A wonderful explanation of why science is so important in our society.
  • The story is written very well for a young audience, with accessible characters, prose, and events.

Cons

  • Many of the characters - such as the villains - are pretty stereotypical.
  • The plot is driven by impossible technology which may confuse some readers in understanding science.
  • The prose and story are not particularly compelling for sophisticated readers.

Description

  • Review based on the 2007 hardback edition. Also available in paperback and audiobook.
  • 296 pages long, with many colorful photographs and pages of information about planets and other astronomical objects.
  • Co-written by one of the biggest names in physics, Stephen Hawking
  • The sequel George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt is also available.

Synopsis and Review

I started reading adult fiction at a fairly early age, bu, in recent years, I've found myself drawn to reading a lot of young adult fiction.

Some young adult fiction is so good, so compelling, that I would recommend it as some of the best stories being told. The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Narnia, Tom Sawyer, and the list goes on of truly great works of fiction created with a strong emphasis on young readers, but which every adult could well lose themselves reading for hours.

George's Secret Key to the Universe is not one of those great works of literature. The storyline is fairly contrived and the writing itself isn't even that compelling. It's not bad, not at all. In fact, it's good ... but it's not great. And if you're an adult reading a kid's book, you should be reading a great kid's book.

The book, of course, is written for kids, so the fact that it's not recommended for adults is hardly a fatal flaw. For kids, this book can make science engaging while it teaches them fun and interesting facts about astronomical objects.

The main character of the book is George Greenby, who discovers that his next door neighbor is a pleasant scientist named Eric. Together with Eric's daughter (Annie) and the world's most powerful computer (Cosmos), they explore the universe. And, of course, there is a villain, who seeks to use science and technology for his own gain.

Scientific ethics is boldly addressed, in the form of the Oath of the Scientist. The resolution involves a good explanation of why science is so important in our society, which is a lesson that all children should be exposed to. If your children do read it, it provides an excellent platform for introducing - and then discussing - these concepts.

With the 2009 book George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt, the series has continued the story of George's scientific adventures. The fourth book, George and the Unbreakable Code, was published in June 2014.