Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla lit up the world

The Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla lit up the world

Elizabeth Rusch
Illustrator:  Oliver Dominguez 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Candlewick Press, 2013   ISBN: 978-0763658557

From a very early age Nikola Tesla was fascinated by the power that he saw in nature; by lightning during a storm, by the way in which water in a creek could push a waterwheel so that it turned, and by the way in which June bugs could make a propeller spin. There was “invisible energy everywhere.” He decided that one day he would “turn the power of Niagara Falls into electricity.”

   When he got to university Nikola watched as a professor demonstrated a machine that could create electricity and run a small motor. When Nikola suggested that it would make more sense to use alternating current rather than direct current, the professor “scoffed.” Many people had tried to make motors that could run on alternating current, but no one had succeeded.

   Being told that no one had managed to use alternating current to power a motor made Nikola determined that he should be the one to achieve this goal. For several years he puzzled over the problem while he worked on machines, and then one day, when he as twenty-six years old, Nikola had a revelation when he was out walking with a friend. For months afterwards he worked on his alternating current machine in his head, finding problems and fixing them.

   Nikola tried to find investors who would sponsor his alternating current machine, but no one believed that such a machine could be built, so Nikola traveled to New York City to share his ideas with Thomas Edison, the father of electricity. Nikola had great hopes that Thomas Edison would help him, but the inventor refused to have anything to do with Nikola and his ideas, and he ended up becoming Nikola’s “greatest rival,” a rival who would go out of his way to make sure that no one would support Nikola’s work. Edison also went out of his way to turn people against alternating current but telling them that it was dangerous.

    In this book one of the world’s greatest inventors is honored. All too often his achievements are overshadowed by the inventions of others, and not many people know about Nikola Tesla’s genius. It is fascinating to learn how Nikola, from an early age, dreamed about making electrical power available for many people. Thanks to him this is a reality in our time.

   With a well written text and wonderful illustrations, this nonfiction biography picture book is a must for any child who is interested in inventors and inventions.