Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel (Kathryn Gibbs Davis)

Title:  Mr.Ferris and His Wheel

Illustrator:  Gilbert Ford

Target Ages:  6 and up

First Lines:  “It was only ten months until the next World’s Fair.  But everyone was still talking about the star attraction at the last World’s Fair.  At eighty-one stories, France’s Eiffel Tower was the world’s tallest building.  Its pointy iron and air tower soared so high that visitors to the top could see Paris in one breathtaking sweep.”

Publisher Summary:  It was a bizarre idea, presented by an eccentric young engineer.  Yes, it might be showy, but would the flimsy contraption collapse?  Wouldn’t it be undignified?  Or frightening?  Finally, the young inventor was told he could try—but only with his own money and with barely enough time. 

Evaluation:  Growing up, I loved going to Cedar Point.  They were always coming out with the next best thing—the fast ride, the tallest hill, the steepest drop.  I could not wait to go each summer to try out their newest innovation.  You might say that George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. started that craze.  After his introduction of the Ferris wheel, there was a competition around the globe to duplicate it—only taller.

The storytelling in Mr. Ferris and His Wheel is brilliant.  I enjoyed every minute reading this fascinating story, not once—but twice.  Outside of the main narrative, there are many sidebars of additional facts that give a greater context and historical background.  The muted drawings capture the nineteenth century landscape as well as add to the drama and tension of this underdog story.

What I love most is that at the heart of the story is the American story.  The very essence of America, the founders, and millions of people who came after is that of innovation and perseverance.  Ferris demonstrated both. 

As a young civil engineer, he was an innovator. Not only did his idea dazzle, but it moved!  His wheel was innovative in another way too.  It had thousands of tiny electric lights on it during a time when most people still did not trust electricity.  His invention proved to many that electricity was safe. 

Ferris was perseverant. He saw the contest for building the starring structure at the World’s Fair as a matter of national pride.  Determined to outshine the Eiffel Tower, he worked tirelessly to build this wheel during a brutal winter and through many set backs.  People mocked him.  They joked it would fall over with the slightest bit of wind. He ignored the noise of the masses and the faithless of the Fair’s planners.  Instead, he put his efforts into making sure every part of the process was perfectly planned and executed.   

This story would work well for a study of great Americas, character education on perseverance, STEM objectives related to electricity, building, and innovation, or American history.

Two additional fascinating connections are related to other magical places—the Emerald City and Disneyland.  You will have to read to find out more on those links. 

Check out Mr. Ferris and His Wheel during your next trip to the library or book story.  You might just inspire a young innovator for tomorrow.   

1 comment:

  1. I've done some reading about this and remember being intrigued. So glad there is a book about it!


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