I had no idea that my job and so much more was due in part to Mr. Elisha Otis. Thanks to Monica Kulling, I now know that he had a hand in making life easier for shoppers that Christmas. His inventive mind was constantly considering ways to change life and the working world as he knew it.
In this fourth book from the much praised Great Ideas Series, Ms. Kulling continues on a path to introduce young readers to some of the lesser known inventors. Earlier she wrote books about Margaret Knight (In the Bag, 2011), Elijah McCoy (All Aboard!, 2010) and George Eastman (It's a Snap, 2009). It's a wonderful series of books and affords a glimpse at the lives of those who have made a difference in our world. You know how I love to tell you about new picture book biographies!
Elisha had invented other things before looking for a better way to hoist heavy machinery from one floor to the next. When he found success designing a safety brake, he found the work he loved to do and set his mind to making 'safety brakes for hoisting platforms'. He thought he would be satisfied and so he settled his family in Yonkers. There would be no more moves. However, the inventive mind rarely settles with just one thing. In a eureka! moment he thought that same platform could be used to move people.
The people he wanted to move were not receptive to being hoisted by the Otis elevator. He tried, but it wasn't going well. Serendipitously, the New York World's Fair provided a perfect venue for showing people the merits of such a people-moving device! The elevator business became a huge success and Mr. Otis got credit for making some far-reaching changes in the way people lived:
"Before Elisha's safety brake, buildings were never higher than six stories. No wanted to live or work on the higher floors because you had to walk up all those stairs. Elisha's invention made it possible to build skyscrapers."
The author tells a great story. It moves along quickly, using just the right amount of text to garner interest and hold attention. David Parkins uses pen, ink and watercolor to set this story in the early to mid 19th century and allows readers to see the ever-resourceful Elisha move from a childhood on the farm, to urban, industrial life. Expressive faces add emotion to this well-told account of Mr. Otis' life and times.