Stephen Hawking and his daughter, Lucy, have written a children’s book, George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt.  Lucy explained the plot to the New Scientist, saying,

“It’s a physics adventure story in which our little hero, George, takes off on a journey across the solar system and beyond. He follows a trail of clues on a cosmic treasure hunt using his neighbour’s supercomputer, Cosmos, which opens doorways to the universe.”

“Ultimately, the book addresses the question ‘Is anybody out there?’, which Dad identified as one of three major questions he wanted to deal with in our books for children. The others are ‘What happens inside a black hole?’, the topic of our previous children’s book (George’s Secret Key to the Universe), and ‘What happened at the Big Bang?”, which is what our next book will be about.”

Hopefully the book will be better than Brian Greene’s foray into kid lit, Icarus at the Edge of Time, which I found very disappointing.  Not that it’s easy to get children excited about this stuff.  Or adults for that matter.  I love the idea of reading about physics, but I’m not very good at actually doing it.  I usually give up around chapter three.  Brian Greene gets me as excited about it as anyone, though.

I love that the first question in the NS interview addresses this directly:

Everyone’s got a copy of A Brief History of Time, but few have finished it. If we engage children in science young enough, will this change?

Stephen Hawking: The book aroused a great deal of interest, although many people found it difficult to understand. But I believe everyone can, and should, have a broad picture of how the universe operates, and our place in it. This is what I have tried to convey in all my popular books.

It is extremely important to me to write for children. Children ask how things do what they do, and why. Too often they are told that these are stupid questions to ask, but this is said by grown-ups who don’t know the answers and don’t want to look silly by admitting they don’t know. It is important that young people keep their sense of wonder and keep asking why. I’m a child myself, in the sense that I’m still looking. Children are fascinated by black holes and ask me questions. I find they soon get the idea if it is explained in simple language. And yes, it is nice to think a few of them might grow up and read A Brief History from cover to cover.