An inspiring true story of a boy genius.
Plowing a potato field in 1920, a 14-year-old farm boy from Idaho saw in the parallel rows of overturned earth a way to “make pictures fly through the air.” This boy was not a magician; he was a scientific genius and just eight years later he made his brainstorm in the potato field a reality by transmitting the world’s first television image. This fascinating picture-book biography of Philo Farnsworth covers his early interest in machines and electricity, leading up to how he put it all together in one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. The author’s afterword discusses the lawsuit Farnsworth waged and won against RCA when his high school science teacher testified that Philo’s invention of television was years before RCA’s.
About Kathleen Krull
What a conversation starter for a classroom or the dinner table: Can you imagine life without TV?
I can't even imagine it, and I'm old. Not that old, but I'll admit to this much: I doubt very much that the Krulls were the first family on their block in Wilmette, Illinois, to get a TV. My mom was pretty sure TV rotted your brain, but once we got one, she did let us watch The Wizard of Oz movie every year and a few other shows. So we had a lot more time for that other thing . . . what is it called . . . oh, right—reading books.
Anyway, going all the way back to 1920—and it's really not that long ago—there was no such thing as TV. My new book is about a supersmart boy named Philo Farnsworth who came up with the idea for inventing one. Yes, a boy—he was only fourteen years old. In between chores on his family's farm in Idaho, Philo played with machines and followed the latest developments in science, such as electricity.
One day he was out plowing the potato fields, he looked behind him at the rows of dirt he was forming, and suddenly his quirky ideas all came together for a television using electricity. Amazing.
It took him several more years to build the first model, with a few explosions along the way, and there's a lot more to tell about his story. But I wanted to frame it by emphasizing just how drastically Philo Farnsworth changed the world. So I start by describing how harsh and lonely it must have been growing up in the American West of the early 1900s. Before Philo.
One of the many things I liked about him was that he genuinely wanted to help humanity, bring people closer together, maybe even bring about world peace, and he thought his machine was the way to do it.
What do you think—has TV helped or hurt humanity, and in what ways? As for me, there are some shows I believe to be the end of civilization as we know it. There are certain other shows I couldn't live without.
But I still think books are more important than TV. I say turn off the TV and read, read, read. My motto is "There's no such thing as reading too much."
Let the debate begin. . . .
Kathleen Krull is well known for her innovative approach to biographies for young readers. Her books include The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum; The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss, the Lives of . . . series of collective biographies, the Giants of Science series; and more as featured at www.kathleenkrull.com. Kathleen lives in San Diego, with her husband, children's book illustrator Paul Brewer.
Starred Review, School Library Journal, September 2009:
"One to inspire young audiences with the vast possibilities that imagination and diligence can accomplish."
The New York Times Book Review, December 20, 2009:
"Beautiful and beautifully told, the book tracks like the sort of graphic novel that breaks your heart, with its implied passage of time and slipping awawy of early dreams."
WINNER 2009 Parents' Choice Silver Honor Book
WINNER 2009 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
WINNER 2010 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
NOMINEE Kansas William White Award
NOMINEE 2011 Indiana Young Hoosier Master List