Book Review: Edison's Fantastic Phonograph

Reading Level

Ages 4-8

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• Thomas Edison Biography

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This book, from the English publishers Frances Lincoln, is a wonderful example of how a seemingly complex concept and detailed explanation of a famous event can be condensed into young-reader-friendly language without losing any of the relevance or importance of that famous event. Authors Diana Kimpton has done an admirable job of this in her new book, Edison's Fantastic Phonograph.

Thomas Alva Edison is probably most famous for inventing the incandescent light, which millions of people use everyday. He also invented hundreds of other useful and, to us, ordinary things that were quite extraordinary when they were first made. One of these was the phonograph.

The book is the story of that invention, with one of the main characters being Edison's daughter, Marion, whom he called Dot. (His son, Thomas, was nicknamed Dash; both nicknames from the Morse code symbols.) Dot loves to discover new things, and she wants to be a part of what her father is doing, which she considers to be very important. She likes to help him, and he enjoys her company.

Dot was there from almost the start of this invention, from asking her father to describe the strips of paper with tiny bumps on it to being one of the first handful of people to hear the invention work its "magic." Father promised daughter a surprise and had to work overtime to make that promise come true.

The illustrations, by M.P. Robertson, are excellent as well, drawing the reader right into the scene while at the same time identifying the scene as familiar to both child and adult. The people and things look very, very real, almost still-life-like, as if they had just frozen in place long enough for Robertson to work his magic. The choice of cover art is first-rate as well, illustrating the seminal event in the book--Dot's first hearing of the phonograph in action.

Edison is an important man in the history of invention, and his accomplishments often go overlooked in the modern age of bytes and bits. It is imperative that his story be told again and again, to audiences of all ages, and this book fits the bill for that. Children and adults alike will enjoy the simple story of a complicated invention.

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