cover image The Real McCoy: The Life of an African-American Inventor

The Real McCoy: The Life of an African-American Inventor

Wendy Towle. Scholastic, $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-590-43596-3

Elijah McCoy (1844-1929), the child of escaped slaves, was born in Canada and educated in Scotland as an engineer during the Civil War. Settling in Michigan, he was able to find work only as a fireman, stoking the engines of a locomotive and oiling its parts. But his training was not wasted: he invented an automatic lubricator--possibly the original ``real McCoy''--and went on to patent other devices, including the portable ironing board and the lawn sprinkler. He eventually founded the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company but never received his due for his work and died alone in a nursing home. First-time author Towle honors her subject's achievements while acknowledging his meager public recognition, while Clay tones down the dynamism he exhibited in Little Eight John to paint sturdy, luminous images of McCoy in action. McCoy himself provides a compelling example of 19th-century African American achievement in the face of discrimination; this respectful biography is a useful addition to library collections. Ages 5-9. (Jan.)