The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth
Author: Kathleen Krull; Illustrator: Greg Couch
Pages: 40
Publisher/Date: Alfred A. Knopf/Random House
September 8, 2009
ISBN: 9780375845611
Age Levels: 5-12

Book Review

Kathleen Krull is a teacher favorite. At conferences and workshops her name is always mentioned when discussing quality non-fiction, especially biographies. She is able to weave a narrative that is fact-filled, fun to read, and fascinating. Her latest title, which examines the life of Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television, is no exception.

Farnsworth was captivated by machines from an early age. His childhood heroes were Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and, later, Albert Einstein.
When he was fourteen, while plowing the family’s potato fields, Philo began thinking. His imagination had been sparked by an article he read about television titled, "Pictures that Fly through the Air." So far, however, no one had been able to create a machine that could televise images.

Back and forth, back and forth . . . the plow created rows of overturned earth. He looked behind him at the lines he was carving—perfectly parallel.

Then he almost fell off the plow seat. All his thoughts fused together. Instead of seeing rows of dirt, he saw a way to create television: capturing them and transmitting them as electrons; then reassembling them for a viewer. If it was done quickly enough, people’s eyes could be tricked into seeing a complete picture instead of lines. "Capturing light in a bottle" was how he thought of it—using electricity, not a machine with moving parts inside.
When Farnsworth was twenty-one, he finally succeeded in inventing the first working television with the help of his wife, Pem, and investors. Television, Farnsworth believed, "would let families and whole communities share the same stories. By making people less ignorant of one another . . . it would teach and inspire. Maybe even lead to world peace."

Unfortunately, writes Krull in an author’s note, the powerful electronics company Radio Corporation of America (RCA) disregarded Farnsworth’s patent and debuted television in 1939 at the World’s Fair in New York City.
Ill and bitter, he rarely watched TV and wouldn’t let his sons watch. "Too many cowboy movies,"he said. In 1969, with the televised landing of an American spacecraft on the moon, he and just about every American watched this historic event at the same time. Only then did he feel that TV was becoming the worthwhile machine he’d envisioned.
Greg Couch’s illustrations, done in acrylic wash with colored pencil and dry brush, perfectly capture the emotions and curiosity of the young Farnsworth, as well as the era in which he lived.

Krull includes lists of websites and books for further study. This inspiring, kid-pleasing biography is a definite "must-have" for your classroom or library.

Classroom Experience: We read the book aloud to a class of third graders as an anchor text for an upcoming unit on American inventors. The students, who had never heard of Farnsworth, were fascinated by his life and wanted to conduct further research.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis
©2009 Education Oasis

About the Author

Kathleen Krull is the author of a number of highly praised picture-book biographies including: The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss and The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum. She is also the author of the Giants of Science series for older readers. Krull lives in San Diego, California.

About the Illustrator

Greg Couch brought an authentic flavor to his illustrations for this book by incorporating into his art pages from antique Sears, Roebuck catalogs, Popular Mechanics magazines, and scientific diagrams found on Google. He is also the illustrator of Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson by Sue Stauffacher as well as many other picture books. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting.


Be sure to visit the author's website.

You may read more about the book at Random House.