Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Going Up!: Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top

Going Up!: Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top

Monica Kulling
Illustrator:  David Parkins 
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Tundra Books, 2012   ISBN: 978-1770492400

Elisha Otis grew up on a farm in Vermont, and like all children who lived on farms at the time he helped with the farm chores and during harvest. Elisha particularly liked watching the farm machines work, so it is not surprising that when he was an adult Elisha became interested in making machines.

It was 1845 and Elisha was living in Albany with his second wife and two sons. Elisha was working in a bed-frame factory and he figured out that a machine could make bed rails a lot faster than a man could. Elisha built the machine, which he called a rail turner, and his boss paid him a sizeable bonus for his invention.

Elisha then took his bonus and moved to Yonkers, New York, where he got a job overseeing the construction of new bed-frame factory. Elisha had to move heavy machinery from the ground floor to the second floor of the new building, and he did not want to use a regular hoisting platform because such a device was too unsafe. What the platform needed was some kind of safety brake so that the platform would not fall if the cable pulling it up broke.

Elisha built a safety brake and it worked perfectly. Finally, quite by accident, Elisha had discovered a line of work that suited him, and from that day forward he worked on making safety brakes. Elisha never imagined when he made his first safety brake that his invention would have a big impact on building construction in the years to come.

In this excellent Great Ideas title, Monica Kulling tells the story of a man whose fondness for machines took him to great heights, literally. The interesting story draws us into Elisha’s world, helping us to appreciate how the man thought and worked.

At the back of the book Monica Kulling offers her readers further information about Elisha, his work, and his legacy.