Monday, November 22, 2010

Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Leon Foucault

Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Leon Foucault
written by Lori Mortensen; illustrated by Raul Allen
(Tricycle Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Practically Paradise

Leon Foucault was "a shy and awkward boy" who frustrated his teachers because he did everything slowly. Leon's methodical nature proves beneficial when he discovers that he has a talent for working with his hands. He designs contraptions such that his mother thinks he must go to medical school to become a surgeon. The sight of blood and suffering drives Leon from medical school, but one of his professors notices his talent with instruments and asks him to work in his microscope class. Leon turns his thoughts to science. One day while working in his laboratory, Leon accidentally brushes a steel rod set in a lathe which sets into motion his discovery of how to prove that the earth spins on its axis.  He creates a pendulum and invites Paris to "come see the earth turn."

When I was a kid living in Maryland, we went to the Smithsonian Museum every year on school field trips. One of my favorite exhibits was the Foucault Pendulum that was located in the Natural Museum of American History. Come See The Earth Turn reminded me of this pendulum that was removed in 1998. Until reading this book, I don't think I was really aware of why this pendulum was displayed. I enjoy reading well written biographies about historical figures that are new to me and Come See The Earth Turn fits the bill. The text is not long which makes it perfect for 3rd-5th graders or 6th-8th graders who are not grade level readers and would be interested in reading a biography. It would also be an excellent read aloud for science when you study space and the earth's rotation. The back matter for this book is fabulous including links that I have included below. These links show the pendulum and instructions for making a pendulum.

PBS Kids
Arts Et Metiers Museum
Center of Science and Industry Museum in Columbus


  1. This sounds like a great book that I'll definitely be checking out. If you're nostalgic for a Foucault Pendulum, you can still see one at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Here's a link to a beautiful photo of the pendulum as seen from the top of the museum's marble staircase. Of course, it's more impressive in person.

  2. I'm a Maryland kid too, and loved to watch the Pendulum back in the day. There are not that many good books about physicists, I'll be looking for this one!


  3. Thank you, Lisa and Paula for visiting! I'll definitely check out the Franklin Pendulum. I didn't realize the Smithsonian pendulum was no longer on exhibit until writing this review.

  4. Oh how interesting! I wonder why it was removed, it seems like such an important artifact!