cover image A Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood and Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison

A Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood and Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison

Don Brown / Author Houghton Mifflin 17 (32p) ISBN 978-0-547-19

Brown (Teedie: The Story of Young Teddy Roosevelt) offers a folksy, episodic picture book biography of Edison’s early years, highlighting his entrepreneurial spirit and love of experimentation, while incorporating a wealth of fascinating, little-known anecdotes about the accomplished inventor. At 12, the homeschooled boy worked 14-hour days, hawking newspapers and other items to passengers on trains, and one day started a fire while conducting a chemistry experiment in the baggage car. Tawny-hued, loosely rendered illustrations, which Brown created using digital imagery and watercolors, balance portrayals of Edison’s industrious and mischievous sides. After launching a newspaper business, Edison decided “it was much more fun hanging around telegraph offices.” He quickly honed his skills as a telegraph operator and discovered ways to improve the machinery. Brown’s description of Edison’s first patented invention (an electric vote-recording device) exemplifies the author’s low-key style: “The machine was a flop. No one wanted it.” A sprink-ling of quotations adds Edison’s own voice to the narrative, which is capped by an author’s note touching on achievements and controversies of Edison’s later life. Ages 5–8. (May)