4 Questions and 3 Sentence Starters with Jacqueline Tourville

Good morning, Jacqueline! Happy book birthday to Albie's First Word: A Tale Inspired by Albert Einstein's Childhood. I hope you have a WONDERFUL day sending your new book out into the world.  I read that you were inspired to write Albie’s First Word while working on an article on child speech development. Please share with us what you learned about Albert Einstein’s late talking.

Jacqueline Tourville: Albert Einstein appears to have experienced two significant issues related to his speech and language development. The first, which served as the inspiration for ALBIE’S FIRST WORD, is his late talking. As Einstein himself said, “It is true that my parents were worried because I began to speak relatively late, so much so that they contacted a doctor. I can’t say how old I was, certainly not less than three.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, language/speech delays are the most common type of developmental delay -- approximately 20 percent children learn to talk or use words later than other children their age (I am a mom of one of these kids: my youngest didn’t say a word until she 18 months old!). To put Einstein’s delay in context, by 24 months, the average toddler can say anywhere from 50 to 100 or more words. 

Albert Einstein’s sister Maria “Maja” Einstein reiterated the family’s concern over Einstein’s late talking in her memoir. As she recalled, the future physicist “...had such difficulty with language that those around him feared he would never learn.” 
Maja also clues us in on another language issue that emerged once her brother did begin to speak. “Every sentence he uttered, no matter how routine, he repeated to himself, softly moving his lips.” Some have speculated that Einstein may have been exhibiting a form of echolalia

Illustration Credit: Wynne Evans

Albert Einstein is often quoted on posters and billboards. What are some of your favorite Einstein quotations?

Jacqueline Tourville:

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." 

“If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” 

Illustration Credit: Wynne Evans
What resources would you recommend to a third grader who wants to learn more about Albert Einstein?

Jacqueline Tourville:

Berne, Jennifer. Ona Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein: Chronicle Books (V. Radunsky, illustrator), 2013.

I like to think that On a Beam of Light picks up where Albie's First Word leaves off! This is a beautiful picture book that explores Einstein’s thinking and scientific accomplishments.

Lakin, Patricia. Albert Einstein: Genius of the TwentiethCentury: Ready-to-Read Stories of Famous Americans, Simon Spotlight (A. Daniel, illustrator), 2005.

For third graders approaching grade level reading, this book does a great job at presenting Einstein’s life story. The text is divided into short chapters accompanied by colorful illustrations.

MacLeod, Barbara. Albert Einstein: A Life of Genius: Kids Can Press, 2003. 

I love this book because it alternates text with a heavy sprinkling of photos and fast facts about Albert Einstein. I learn something new every time I read it. For example, did you know Einstein, in his first job as a Swiss patent clerk, approved the patent for the Toblerone candy bar?

Also, if your library has a copy of Cobblestone magazine’s Einstein-focused issue  (“Meet Albert Einstein”) from 1987, treasure it! I was a teacher before becoming a writer and rediscovered it a few months ago packed in a box of my old classroom books. There are so many good articles and activities included. No wonder I saved it!  

Illustration Credit: Wynne Evans

I smiled when I read that you live in Maine. There’s so much to love in your state. What are some of the must-see spots?

Jacqueline Tourville: We’ve lived here now for four years and I never get tired of exploring this place! Here is my current list of can’t-miss spots:

-   Acadia National Park: Acadia is filled with mountains that seem rise up right out of the sea. The view from the top of Cadillac Mountain is one for the record books!

-   Boothbay Harbor: Lobster served in this seaside village comes straight off the boat! Boothbay is quintessential Maine: warm, friendly, and breathtakingly beautiful.   

-   Baxter State Park: Located in the northern part of the state, the park’s lush forests were used to inspire the illustrations for the Disney movie Bambi! One of Disney’s lead illustrators was from Maine. For hiking buffs, Baxter is also the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  

Please finish these sentence starters:

Reading is like being given a blank passport and plane tickets to wherever you want to go! 

School libraries are special places that show kids that no matter what their interests or reading level, there’s a book (a really good book!) waiting for them.   

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my life’s goal of visiting all the settings of my favorite children’s books. I’ve used Google maps to walk down Klickitat Street and wade in Plum Creek, but I can’t wait to do these things in real life! 

Borrow Albie's First Word: A Tale Inspired by Albert Einstein's Childhood from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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