The Mysteries of Beethoven's Hair

The Mysteries of Beethoven's Hair - Russell Martin, Lydia Nibley On the whole, I really liked this book. It told a fascinating story -- the journey of a lock of Beethoven's hair from Vienna to the United States, by way of Cologne, Germany, Gilleleje, Denmark, and London, England; and its subsequent scientific testing. The intertwined biographies of Beethoven and the people who loved him or interacted with him down the years were particularly fascinating.So, why only three stars?First, because of a certain apparent carelessness in some of the writing. For instance, in the description of the initial cutting, Beethoven's hair is described as "half-gray," (p.33), whereas later, the authors call it "quite gray." (p. 101) Maybe they do not mean "entirely" when they say "quite," but it does read that way, and it gave me pause. They could save young readers a bit of confusion by making their adjectives match, or, better yet, leaving them out altogether.A more troubling example occurs on page 82, where the authors describe the initial scientific research on the lock of hair. The current owners of the hair choose Dr. William Walsh to conduct an examination, and he sends samples out to other scientists, including Walter McCrone, whom the authors describe as follows:It was McCrone who had demonstrated conclusively in the 1970s that the outline of a figure on fabric known as the Shroud of Turin had been painted in the fourteenth century and was not, therefore, the burial cloth of Jesus, as some had claimed, but was an historical hoax instead.Well! That gave me pause for more than one reason -- not least because I had seen The PBS Special about the Shroud of Turin recently. So, I knew that McCrone's research, though interesting, was not actually conclusive. And the whole topic of the Shroud of Turin is quite (meaning extremely!) controversial, so why drag it into a children's book unnecessarily, especially by means of such a clunky sentence?Unfortunately, writing like this occasionally mars an otherwise fascinating story.Episodes of awkward writing aside, there are also problems with the book design. And the main problem is that there is no color. This is a children's book, and needs to be attractive to children. The book has a wealth of beautifully chosen illustrations, but they are generally poorly reproduced (oddly, the purely photographic illustrations are even grainier than the art reproductions), and not a single one is in color.And then there is the cover. Scary! Not to mention that poor Beethoven (as shown) has no hair whatsoever. (But maybe that was the point?)I did think the story was fascinating, and I gained great respect for the two men, Alfredo "Che" Guevara and Ira Brilliant, who acquired the lock of hair and set about trying to honor Beethoven's dying wish by means of it. And the Danish section of the story, and the characters throughout, are fascinating.In sum: I did like the book, & I enjoyed reading it, but it could have (& should have) been better. A bit more attention to editing and design, and I would have awarded it another star -- maybe even 2.