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Monday, October 28, 2013

Making Contact! Written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Richard Rudnicki. Tundra, 2013. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"Marconi experimented with batteries, antennas, and an electric spark generator. He would be successful if he could send a radio wave signal to the receiver on the other side of the room.  Then one day, in the late summer of 1895, Marconi tapped a telegraph key and the bell on the receiver rang."

I look forward to seeing each new addition to this very fine series of picture book biographies from Tundra. This is the fifth in the 'Great Ideas' series, and it is as informative and enjoyable to read as each of the others...It's A Snap! (2009), All Aboard! (2010), In The Bag (2011), Going Up! (2012). I assume that each will be as good as the last, and I have never been disappointed by the talented and mindful Monica Kulling. She does her research, and we, as readers, benefit from it.  

In this book we meet Guglielmo Marconi in a free verse introduction:

"Radio Days

There was a time
all around the world
when Radio was queen.
She waited grandly
in the room
for her subjects
to gather at her feet.
"Give me your ears.
Listen," she said.

So we sat quietly,
hearing stories
that took us to other worlds;
listening to the sounds
of horses' hooves,
block hitting block -
Clip-clop, Clip-clop.

We did nothing but listen.

What a changed, and charged, world we live in today! Many of the advances made since radio was queen are thanks to the inventive and questioning minds of people like Mr. Marconi. Through Ms. Kulling's text we come to know what life was like at the time that he was thinking about those things that fascinated him, not the least of which were all things electrical. Even as a young boy, he was enamored of Benjamin Franklin, his kite and a lightning storm.

Guglielmo was born into a privileged family in Bologna, Italy. He was not a good student and did most of his learning with tutors. His interest in all things electrical grew exponentially as he studied the work of others who shared his passion. He learned as much as he could, and had a revelation while on vacation with his brother. He was born to work as an inventor, having patience, ingenuity and an ever-active mind. When he discovered that signals could be sent wirelessly, he gave all his energy to perfecting the transmissions.

"Finally, on December 12, 1901, Marconi
heard three clicks on the receiver...
For the first time ever, a wireless signal
had traveled the distance between two
continents. It was only the beginning."

Now that she has enticed the reader with an introduction to Marconi's work, the author leaves those interested to do their best to find out more. To that end, a source list in included. Richard Rudnicki adds to the appeal with realistic, detailed artwork of the time in which Marconi was working. The illustrations add meaning and understanding to the text, allowing young readers to learn from them, too.

Where would we be today had Marconi not pursued his interest and intrigue with wireless technology. Can you live without your phone, or the Internet?

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