Time is one of life’s biggest mysteries—and one of its greatest challenges. Author-illustrator Torben Kuhlmann explores the concept of time in another wildly imaginative mouse adventure, Einstein: The Fantastic Journey of a Mouse Through Space and Time.
Kuhlmann’s earlier books have explored flight (Lindbergh), space travel (Armstrong) and the ocean (Edison). All are lengthy picture books (this one has 128 pages), which allows plenty of room for his yarns to unfold. Their large trim size showcases a marvelous array of Kuhlmann’s finely detailed illustrations, ranging from luminous full-page spreads to comical spot illustrations that chronicle their heroes’ exploits.
In Einstein, said hero is an inquisitive, unnamed mouse who has been eagerly anticipating “the biggest cheese fair the world has ever seen,” only to discover that he has missed the fair by one day. His crushing disappointment makes him wonder, “How could one turn time backward?” and prompts his determined quest to do so. After physically trying to stop a variety of clocks and then consulting a fellow mouse in a clockmaker’s workshop, he eventually ends up in the patent office where Albert Einstein once worked. He studies Einstein’s theories and builds a time machine that transports him back to 1905, where he meets the legendary scientist.
Einstein is perfectly paced and full of suspense (Beware a menacing cat named Chronos!), and Kuhlmann’s humor shines in both text and illustrations. Early on, for instance, the narrator wryly points out that “The term ‘pocket watch’ wasn’t quite right from a mouse’s perspective.” Later, after one of Einstein’s books hits him on the head, the mouse ties an ice cube on top of his throbbing noggin. Scrumptious details like these fill every page; in fact, on that same spread, observant readers will see that the mouse has built a ladder with matchsticks for rungs to reach the top of his chalkboard.
Kuhlmann’s sepia-tone illustrations are so glorious because of the keen attention he pays to how things might look from a mouse’s perspective. His unique ability to combine fun, facts, science and biography makes Einstein a real triumph.