CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 7. . . .October 19, 2012
Going Up! Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top. (Great Ideas).
Monica Kulling. Illustrated by David Parkins.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2012.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
Otis, Elisha Graves, 1811-1861-Juvenile literature.
Inventors-United States-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Ellen Heaney.
Going up! Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top is part of the "Great Idea" series from Tundra, books about inventions that changed the modern world. Other books in the series deal with the ideas of George Eastman of photography fame (It's a Snap! George Eastman's First Photograph), Elijah McCoy (All Aboard! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine) and Margaret Knight, who was called by some "the female Edison" and the person who came up with the square bottom for the paper bag (In the Bag! Margaret Knight Wraps It Up).
Elisha Otis was a farm boy from New York State who was always fascinated by the way things worked, including the device used to move hay up into a barn's loft. After leaving the farm, he held a variety of jobs from working in a grist mill to a bed factory where he thought of making an early lathe for turning wooden rails faster.
Elisha showed his boss his idea.
"I call it a rail turner," he said. "It can make a rail as quick as a tick!"
Elisha's machine made bed rails four times faster than by hand.
The boss was thrilled. "Bonus time!" he exclaimed.
Elisha took the five hundred dollars, and guess what? He moved again.
This time to a city called Yonkers, on the majestic Hudson River.
It was as the manager of a factory in Yonkers that Otis recognized the need to safely move machinery from one level to another, and this recognition resulted in his developing an open freight elevator with a safety brake.
Otis wanted to use this idea in the creation of a passenger elevator, but, in the 1850's, there were no takers for such dangerous technology. It was the New York World's Fair of 1857 which created an appetite for new things and set Otis on the path to success. An afterword in the book states that modern skyscrapers could not exist without Otis' invention because people would not be able (or willing!) to climb more than four of five flights of stairs.
Author Kulling is a seasoned writer of children's nonfiction books, including all the titles in this Tundra series. Illustrator David Parkins' drawings, with their muted palette and fine lines, include lots of details of the various workshops and machines, as well as capturing the feeling of the era.
An open picture book format and use of dialogue make Going Up! Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top an engaging and informative work for younger readers.
Ellen Heaney is Head, Children's Services, New Westminster Public Library, New Westminster, BC.
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