The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull

boy-who-invented-tvCindy: My sixth grade students research scientists and inventors every year and Philo is on their list of choices, so I’m delighted to have Kathleen Krull’s new picture book biography of his life and work. The Boy Who Invented TV (Random/Knopf, 2009) starts with black and white end pages full of photos of various television models through the years. Philo is shown to be an inquisitive child from the get-go with supportive parents and later a spouse who learned to use a precision welder to fashion the tube elements he needed for his first prototype. Like any good inventor, he sought inspiration from many places (planting rows of potato fields gave him the ideas for creating images with “parallel lines of light, capturing them and transmitting them as electrons, then reassembling them for a viewer.” The acrylic wash and colored pencil drawings use light as effectively as Philo’s television and many have other elements added (Sears & Roebuck catalog pages, music sheets, etc.) to great effect.

I watch little television in an attempt to keep up with my book stacks, but I am grateful for him every time I do tune in for something spectacular like the National Parks series we’ve been raving about, or something harrowing like my Indiana Hoosiers’ basketball games. And really, how can you not love a man who invented a mechanical way to churn his washtub….”leaving him extra time to read!”

Lynn: Kathleen Krull begins by asking students to imagine what it was like in 1906 with no refrigerators, no cars, few phones and NO TV! One of the things I like best about this really wonderful book is the way she teaches some excellent lessons without ending up sounding like one of those Childhood of Famous Americans biographies of my childhood! She shows students what everyday life was like then and does it in a way that is relevant to their lives. She describes a brilliant shy boy who endured bullying and hardship, overcoming it all to pursue a dream with almost obsessive persistence. Krull’s explanation of the science of television is clear and understandable without overly simplifying. Greg Couch’s illustrations have a luminous quality – glowing like Farnsworth’s invention and enhance the text nicely. An author’s note, and sources chosen for young readers complete the book. Krull brings a sadly forgotten genius to life for our youngsters nonfictionmonday1who cannot imagine a world without TV.

Thanks to Booknosher for hosting Nonfiction Monday this week.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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