—Library Media Connection
Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the Worldby Elizabeth Rusch, Oliver Dominguez (Illustrator)
When a Serbian boy named Nikola Tesla was three, he stroked his cat and was enchanted by the electrical sparks. By the time he was a teenager, he had made a vow: Someday I will turn the/b>
Move over, Thomas Edison! Nikola Tesla takes the spotlight in a biography of the man who pioneered modern electrical engineering — and changed the course of history.
When a Serbian boy named Nikola Tesla was three, he stroked his cat and was enchanted by the electrical sparks. By the time he was a teenager, he had made a vow: Someday I will turn the power of Niagara Falls into electricity. Here is the story of the ambitious young man who brought life-changing ideas to America, despite the obstructive efforts of his hero-turned-rival, Thomas Edison. From using alternating current to light up the Chicago World’s Fair to harnessing Niagara to electrify New York City and beyond, Nikola Tesla was a revolutionary ahead of his time. Remote controls, fluorescent lights, X-rays, speedometers, cell phones, even the radio — all resulted from Nikola Tesla’s inventions. Established biographer Elizabeth Rusch sheds light on this extraordinary figure, while fine artist Oliver Dominguez brings his life and inventions to vivid color.
Back matter includes additional information about Tesla, scientific notes and explanations, source notes, a bibliography, and suggestions for further reading.
—Library Media Connection
Gr 2–5—Although Edison's inventions are celebrated in many children's books, his rival, Nikola Tesla, receives little attention. Rusch's picture-book biography starts to correct that inbalance. From childhood experiments through college studies, Tesla exhibited an interest in electricity. By the time he designed his alternating current (AC) system, he had moved from Eastern Europe to Paris but could find no investors to fund his projects. Convinced that Edison would recognize AC's value, Tesla came to America. Rather than welcome him, Edison set out to discredit AC because it threatened the direct current (DC) power stations he owned. Tesla's breakthrough came when Westinghouse, which used his inventions, won the bid to supply electricity to the Chicago World's Fair. That success was followed by Tesla's achievements in harnessing power generated by Niagara Falls to supply electricity for New York cities. Dramatic incidents such as Tesla's lighting a bulb with his hand are explained in scientific notes at the end. Diagrams and text clarify how AC and DC work, and Rusch stresses the dangers of experimenting with electricity. She provides source notes for quotations and offers detailed explanations of the Tesla-Edison rivalry and of other Tesla inventions. Dominguez's gouache and acrylic illustrations include impressive panoramas of the World's Fair and Niagara Falls, but the people lack animation. A more serious problem is the failure to provide historical context. There are no dates in the text itself, and there is no time line. Despite this oversight, most libraries should consider purchasing the book for its clear biographical details reinforced by scientific explanations. Students might compare Rusch's presentation with one or more books about Edison.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Nikola Tesla's curiosity and passion for discovery are on full display in this picture-book biography. From the time he was a small boy, Serbian-born inventor Nikola Tesla was fascinated by electricity. It wasn't long before he began to notice everything about this power and ways to make it more effective. As he traveled the world, working, learning and inventing, he was constantly looking for a way to develop electricity using alternating current, a method he believed would be safer and cheaper than the direct current that was in use. When he came to the United States, he sought the help of Thomas Edison, a proponent of direct current, and the two inventors eventually found themselves rivals after initial collaboration. Despite powerful opposition, Tesla's ideas ultimately prevailed. This is a lively introduction to the life of an important figure in technology, someone whose ideas are still at the center of today's world. Rusch highlights key episodes in Tesla's creative life that will resonate with young readers. Dominguez's graphite, gouache, ink and acrylic paintings capture both the inventor's focus and his exuberance, ably complementing the narrative. The backmatter, with attention to Tesla as visionary, his rivalry with Edison and additional discussion about his work with electricity, answers questions without interrupting the story flow. An engaging volume that will encourage both budding scientists and anyone intrigued by the creative process. (sources, bibliography, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)
Meet the Author
Elizabeth Rusch is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction for children, including the picture book biography For the Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
Oliver Dominguez works as a freelance editorial illustrator and is the illustrator of Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball by David A. Kelly. He lives in Fort Myers, Florida.
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