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Thursday, May 12, 2016

To The Rescue: Garrett Morgan Underground. Written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by David Parkins. Tundra, Penguin. 2016. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 had killed hundreds, destroying homes and businesses, it took years for workers to rebuild the city. When firefighters entered a burning building, they were often overcome by smoke. It was difficult for them to rescue those who were trapped inside. Garrett decided to invent a hood to give firefighters a fighting chance."

With all the news that is being broadcast right now about the devastating wildfires that caused so much heartbreak and destruction in Fort McMurray, I found myself thinking back to this book that I read a few weeks ago. It is part of the wonderful Great Ideas Series from Tundra Books. Each is a story of an inventor and their amazing invention/s.

This one dates back to the late nineteenth when Garrett Morgan was born the son of freed slaves. His family worked hard every day in the fields of Kentucky, barely making enough to sustain themselves. Garrett wanted more. He was 14 when he headed north to make a better life for himself. Using his ingenuity and a penchant for finding better ways of doing things, he found success as a tailor. While trying to improve the way his sewing machine worked, he inadvertently invented a hair cream that made him enough money to work on his true calling ... inventing.

Following the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire in Chicago that killed far too many people, he turned his attention to a hood that firefighters would be able to use to protect themselves by breathing fresh air while inside a burning building. It was disappointing that it did not sell well. Taking a chance and offering his help, he was able to show its benefits in a real fire. It helped save many lives. That safety hood, once modified, also protected soldiers during World War I.

We read in a note called Safety First at the end of the book that Garrett Morgan also invented the traffic signal. Where would we be without these incredibly inventive minds?

This series has introduced me to people I had never known. I admire the way that Monica Kulling provides straightforward text that allows readers to know about their lives, their dedication to making the world a better place, and their successes. David Parkins captures the time and setting, while also providing details that add to the book's impact.

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