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Going Up!: Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top (Great Idea Series) Hardcover – October 9, 2012
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Kulling gives lesser-known inventor Elisha Otis a lift in this latest entry into the Great Idea series. As a boy in the early 1800s, Otis enjoyed watching the pulleys and ropes hoist—and occasionally drop—hay on his family’s farm. After his grist mill, which he built himself, went bust, he found success creating a rail-turner machine for a bed-frame factory and inventing a hoisting platform for heavy machinery. Unlike the pulleys and ropes of his boyhood, this platform had a safety break to avoid crashes. But when Otis expanded his operation to make elevators that would hoist people, spectators were skeptical. A daring demonstration in the Crystal Palace of the 1854 World’s Fair in New York convinced the audience of the viability of elevators and paved the way for skyscrapers. Although it wouldn’t have been possible for Otis’ wife to “almost see the lightbulb over her husband’s head” in 1845, this picture-book biography gives a lively account of Otis’ world-changing invention. Caricatured expressions set against detailed backdrops add playfulness to the informative text. Grades 1-3. --Angela Leeper
“… In his realistic, fine-lined illustrations, Parkins … captures the narrative’s broad, high-energy tone in images of the inventor with eyes bulging, mouth wide open and arms flung out wildly during various Eureka! moments….”
“Kulling gives lesser-known inventor Elisha Otis a lift in this latest entry into the Great Idea series…. [T]his picture-book biography gives a lively account of Otis’ world-changing invention. Caricatured expressions set against detailed backdrops add playfulness to the informative text.”
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I always enjoy good picture book biographies and Monica Kulling's "Great Idea Series" is a favourite of mine. She has a knack for picking the not so common inventors of the last 150 years or so. These are inventions we've heard of but the inventor's names are not always the most well known. I have heard of Elijah Otis before but if asked who he was I would have answered "an inventor" not really connecting his name with his famous and life-changing invention, the elevator. The book takes the usual form of this series which is comforting as each book is a welcome read when we know what to expect. This one skips Elijah's childhood very fast as by page three he is married, widowed, father of two and remarried as he sets off to try his luck in New York.
We find Elijah a studious man, who though working in a factory by day, spends his evenings designing machinery to improve the speed of the manufacturing process. Written with short paragraphs or two per page, each accompanied by large intricate illustrations that perfectly show off both Otis' character and the time period. We eventually learn how he comes up with the idea of the elevator, the public's initial reluctance to believe it was safe and the eventual implementation of the elevator in architecture and its direct influence on the building of "skyscrapers". Another fine entry in the series.
"Going up!" shouts seven-year old Elisha Otis as he watches the hay hoist. It's 1818, and young Elisha loves watching farm machines at work. He carries this love with him as he - at nineteen -- moves away from the farm, eventually starting his own family. By 1845, Elisha is working in a bed-frame factory, when he is inspired to make a machine that makes bed rails more quickly. His bed rail turned proved so successful, he is put in charge of building a new bed frame factory in Yonkers, New York. As he built the new factory, however, Elisha didn't trust the hoisting platform; if the platform failed, as they often did in those days, falling machine parts could hurt people. So, he built a safety brake.
"Going up!" Elisha shouts to his men, as he began testing his safety brake. Once the platform reaches full height, he shouts, "Let it fall!" The workers are astonished as they watch - and the safety brakes hold the platform!
And then, Elisha gets a new idea:
"One night in 1853, Elisha sat bolt upright in bed. His nightcap was skew. "We'll lift people!" he shouted.
"Lift people? Where?" mumbled a sleepy Betsy...
"Why, to the sky, of course! To the sky!"
But people didn't trust the people-hoisting elevators. When the World's fair comes to New York, Elisha finds his chance to prove his great idea.
The rest is history, of course.
David Parkins, who had also illustrated the critically acclaimed - and one of my favorite books - In The Bag: Margaret Knight Wraps It Up, captures the personality of Elisha, from his knitted brow of concern as he mulls over the design of the safety brake, to his wide-eyed eureka moment when he bolts upright in his bed. Other characters, too - his sleepy wife, the astonished workers, the amazed onlookers as he tests his machine at the World's Fair - pop off the double-page spreads. Monica includes an author's note, stating that before Elisha's safety brake, buildings could only be six stories tall. Afterwards, however, the sky became the limit! Elisha's invention made it possible to build skyscrapers. This is an excellent read aloud about having the determination to make a dream come true.
Otis's life and contributions are told in an appealing story-like form. However, the author uses dialogue in such a way that I could not tell if it was from primary sources or a fictionalized rendering of events. Unfortunately, there is no back matter to clear up the puzzle. There is, however, an odd poem at the beginning of the book that feels just thrown in there. Despite these flaws, this is an interesting and engaging book with appealing illustrations. I would recommend it as a starting point for kids wanting to know more about Elisha Otis, or about inventor's lives -- I just wish it had provided more information.