'It came to me almost as a complete idea,” says Lucy Hawking, daughter of theoretical physicist Stephen, of their new children’s adventure book, George’s Secret Key to the Universe. The story, written by Lucy with a scientific assist from Stephen—talk about a dad who can help with your homework—is about a boy who lives next to the world’s greatest scientist and his daughter. Though George’s parents are technophobes, he befriends the neighbors nonetheless and, with the help of Cosmos, their supercomputer, goes on a romp through outer space, with attendant drama. The story draws on some of the younger Hawking’s childhood (“We got to go to observatories and look through really big telescopes”) but not all of it (“The queen came for tea when I was 8 or 9”). These days, Lucy Hawking—a onetime New Yorker who briefly worked as a researcher for this magazine—lives in Cambridge with her 10-year-old son, but she’ll be back here on October 28 to fête the book’s publication at the American Museum of Natural History. Mother and son are currently reading the book together. “He loves it, and he’s excited about his granddad in general. He’s autistic, so it’s a bit above his level of reading and comprehension. He will get to it one day. It’s another reason I wanted to write the book—it seemed to me he wouldn’t be able to access some of my dad’s adult work.” The book, a copy of which recently engrossed a certain hard-to-impress 9-year-old cousin, might be highly educational for moms and dads to read as well; informative text boxes throughout explain neutron stars, wormholes, and other space stuff. A relief for the science-deficient parent in need of a little extra help—and, says Hawking, likely the first in a series.
Hawking: The Book
World’s greatest scientist, for kids.
10/28, 2 to 4 p.m. American Museum of Natural History, book mezzanine, main shop, Central Park W. at 79th St. (212-769-5100 or amnh.org); free with admission.