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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Boy Who Invented TV, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Greg Couch. Random House, 2009. $21.00 ages 8 and up

"Philo's father shared his wonder. On clear summer nights, as they lay in the grass and gazed at the stars, his father told him about Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone, Thomas Edison and the phonograph. Inventors - these became Philo's heroes."

Television? What are your early memories? One of the best Jack and I have is of our next door neighbor, who at the time had the only television in the neighborhood, hauling it out to the front lawn so we could gather round and watch The Roy Rogers Show. It was such fun to sit with all of our friends outside and ride along with Roy and Dale. I also remember watching wrestling with the whole family, and gaping in wonder at the 'fights' each week. I am sure there are many more early memories I could dredge up; you don't need to hear them.

So, I was interested in reading this picture book biography of Philo Taylor Farnsworh and his lasting and remarkable invention. I had never even heard his name. Yet, he filed 150 patents after sharing a passion for invention with his father.

The brain is an amazing thing. The always inquisitive young man was taking care of the farm while his father worked another job when he was eight years old. It allowed him a break from school and he used any spare time he had to read his grandmother's Sears Roebuck catalogue and wonder at the power of electricity, needed for many of the articles found in those pages. His early life consisted of hard work and a great deal of learning, always asking and expecting answers to his questions.

When the family moved to Utah, they lived in a house that had electricity and a stack of old science magazines in the attic. Perfect fodder for an inquiring mind, and the start of a new passion. Philo saved whatever money he could to buy more. It was in one of those magazines that he first read the word 'television', not yet invented but on the horizon. At 14, he figured it out while sitting in a plowed field. His science teacher was impressed with his knowledge and encouraged him to study further in college; that dream ended with his father's death.

It took time, and much investigation, before Philo's obsession with television led to a chance to build his first model. He needed financial backing and got it; the stipulation was that it would be completed within a year. He worked endlessly and at last he had a demonstration model ready. It failed. More investors and more hard work. Today, he is credited for all that work. In his lifetime, he grew disheartened with it and didn't want his children to watch what was being broadcast. Then in 1969, his opinion was altered:

"...with the televised landing of an American spacecraft on the moon, he and just about every other American watched this historic event at the same time. Only then did he feel that TV was becoming the worthwhile machine he'd envisioned."

Kathleen Krull did her homework and shares Philo's life from his birth until the papers proclaimed him 'a young genius'. Now, he was on a plain with his heroes - an inventor!

Greg Couch has created inspired artwork that allows readers to gain real perspective on this little known man and his many accomplishments. Be sure to check out the endpapers which give a retrospective of the television as it has evolved through the years. The colors are vivid, the use of light and dark intriguing, and the scenes clear and inspiring...a perfect fit for the man being honored in this excellent picture book biography.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks much, Sal's Fiction Addiction, for a lovely review of a nonfiction book!