Martin, Russell & Nibley, Lydia. 2009. THE MYSTERIES OF BEETHOVEN’S HAIR. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781570917141 [Suggested Grade Levels 4- 10]
Who doesn’t love a good mystery — analyzing and reconstructing new information to bring about new understanding? More than a century later, in a distant part of the world, unfolds a true story that fills in missing pieces to what we know about the beloved composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven. The reader is educated in nineteenth century rituals, such as making a wax mold of the dead person’s face and clipping of hair to have as treasures in a time when photography wasn’t available. Martin and Nibley weave together common knowledge of Beethoven’s oft’ tumultuous life with the story of a Texan physician and Arizonian developer coming together in 1995, acquiring a lock of Beethoven’s hair. The authors clearly separate what is known to be true, from what is strong theory, and what is merely speculation.
The scientific and historical knowledge brought together is fascinating for the potential detective in all of us. The travels of the lock of hair itself are a story of three generations of a Jewish family and their survival journey during the Holocaust. The documented illustrations and pictures add to the intrigue of the story. The authors also describe how they collected data for the book.
Encourage young readers to consider other examples of how new information about an historical person, place, or incident shed new light on our knowledge. Check out the DNA Extraction Experiment online: http://weirdsciencekids.com/DNA.html
Other books revealing the science mystery behind an event in history:
Fleischman, John. Phineas GAGE. ISBN 9780618494781
Murphy, Jim. AMERICAN PLAGUE. ISBN 9780395776087
By Susie Demarest