Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch, illustrated by Oliver Dominguez
Nikola Tesla was born in Serbia during a lightning storm, something that would portend his future interest in electricity. At a young age, Tesla became fascinated by the invisible energy everywhere around him, in the water, the wind and the insect that flew. In college Tesla grew interested in alternating current though his professor thought it was impossible. Tesla studied and invented and eventually figured out how to make alternating current work, but he needed help. He headed to America to meet with Thomas Edison, someone he knew would be interested. But Edison was not, insisting that direct current was the only electricity he would work with. Soon Tesla and Edison were rivals in the “war of the currents.” This first picture book biography will introduce young readers to one of the great scientific inventors of all time and his greatest rival too.
Rusch tells the compelling story of Tesla and his inventions. She shows Tesla as a complicated person, eager to pursue his own ideas and willing to stand up for them in the face of great opposition. She also tells the story of the rivalry of the two men in a very engaging way and Tesla’s ultimate victory and how he reached it. Her writing is engaging, detailed and impressive.
Dominguez’s illustrations are filled with period details that help ground this picture book directly in the time in which it is set. Scientific instruments are often in the forefront of the images, showing their structures in detail. This is a true celebration of the science of invention.
An electric read, this book shines light on a great man. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.
Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
Released June 11, 2013.
Explore three of the greatest primatologists of the 20th century in this graphic novel. The book begins with the story of Jane Goodall and how she was recruited by the famous anthropologist Lous Leakey to research chimpanzees. It shows how she first learned to quietly watch the chimpanzees and be accepted by them as well as her own personal life as she lived in the jungle. When Dian Fossey is then recruited by Leakey, the story turns to her life and her very different personality as she researched gorillas using similar techniques to Goodall. The last woman recruited was Galdikas and she studied orangutans and had her own adventures as her research progressed. Told with humor but also immense respect, the stories of these three pioneering women show the importance of female scientists and the unique paths you can take to reaching your dreams.
Ottaviani writes in the voices of the three women, beautifully capturing their individuality through their words. The three are profoundly unique yet also amazingly similar in their bravery, dedication and resilience. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where the three of them were together and the ending which demonstrated how different they were from one another. It takes a lot of skill to write three women’s voices with such clarity that they are distinct and special.
The art by Wicks has a wonderful simplicity and also a playfulness that makes the book welcoming and light hearted. This is nonfiction that reluctant readers and young biologists alike will enjoy. The graphic format is compelling and given the nature of the research makes the entire experience more tangible for young readers.
A great graphic novel, this is a stellar pick for school libraries and public libraries that will have children learning about scientific history without even realizing it! Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from First Second.
LookUp! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raul Colon
Henrietta had loved the stars ever since she was a little girl and spent hours gazing at them. When she studied astronomy, she was one of the only women in her class. After graduating, she worked at an observatory though she almost never got to look through the telescope. Instead the women were there to do the calculations, to work and not think. But Henrietta continued to study and to think, she was especially interested in a group of stars that seemed to dim and glow. She discovered some new blinking stars that no one had ever found before. As she studied, she found a pattern in the dimming and brightening of these stars: the blink time allowed her to measure the true brightness of any blinking star in the sky. Her discovery led to a deeper understanding of the vastness of the universe and her life demonstrated that women are thinkers and scientists.
Burleigh’s writing is almost poetic here. He speaks of the connection Henrietta felt to the stars: “Sometimes she felt the stars were trying to speak, to tell her what they knew.” He writes with deep amazement at the vastness of the universe and also speaks of Leavitt’s discoveries in thrilled tones, giving her credit for the hard work and patience it took to find the patterns in the stars. The book ends with several pages that outline her discoveries, names of other female astronomers, and also have a glossary and bibliography.
Colon’s illustrations are simply gorgeous. Done in watercolors and pencil, the illustrations are luminous, glowing with the light of the stars and with the light of the heroine herself. Textured with swirling lines, the illustrations have a great depth to them as well.
This picture book biography invites children to follow their own passions and get involved in science as well. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.