________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 19. . . .January 19, 2016


To the Rescue!: Garrett Morgan Underground. (Great Idea Series).

Monica Kulling. Illustrated by David Parkins.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2016.
32 pp., hardcover & epub, $19.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-520-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77049-521-0 (epub).

Subject Headings:
Morgan, Garrett A., 1877-1963-Juvenile literature.
African American inventors-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Breathing apparatus-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

*** /4


Once, at a circus, Garrett saw an elephant reach its long trunk out the tent flap to breathe fresh air. This gave him an idea. In a fire, smoke, dust and poisonous gases rise. The air at ground level is breathable.

Garrett’s safety hood, the forerunner of the gas mask, included a long tube that reached to the ground, just like an elephant’s trunk. A second tube allowed the user to exhale air. A wet sponge filtered out smoke and cooled the air.

The hood was made of fireproof canvas. Garrett called his invention Morgan’s Safety Hood and Smoke Protector.


Born in 1877, Garrett Morgan was the son of freed slaves, farm labourers who barely eked out a living. At the age of 14, Garrett left his Kentucky home to seek his fortune. He worked sweeping floors at a sewing factory in Cleveland, and when he noticed that sewing machine belts often broke, he made a stronger belt. This so impressed his boss that Garrett was promoted to sewing machine repairman. Years later, Garrett and his wife opened a sewing machine shop and a tailor shop. Quite by accident, while Garrett was trying to create a cream that prevented sewing machine needles from making scorch marks on fabric, he got an idea that the cream would work as a hair straightener. Sales of the hair straightener and other hair products were so successful that Garrett was able to spend more time on his inventions. His safety hood enabled firefighters to breathe fresh air when they entered a burning building. Though sales of this product were disappointing, when a gas leak in a tunnel caused a huge explosion, trapping 30 workers underground, Garrett’s invention came in handy. He rushed to the site of the explosion with four masks, entered the tunnel with three other men, and was able to save many of the trapped workers. His heroic efforts were rewarded with a gold medal from the city of Cleveland. The safety hood, with some tweaks to the design, protected thousands of soldiers from chlorine gas in the trenches during World War I. Garrett also invented the traffic signal, a T-shaped pole which featured three positions- stop, go, and all stop. The all stop position stopped vehicular traffic in all directions so that pedestrians could cross the streets safely.

     Morgan’s simply told story is one of determination, perseverance and concern for others, his inventions inspired by real life events. Author Monica Kulling’s spare writing style is perfect for the intended audience, and, like other books in her “Great Idea Series”, this title focuses on the background behind the inventions. Parkins’ impressive mixed media illustrations not only capture the story’s historical setting, but also enhance the text with their attention to detail.


Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

CM Home | Next Review | (Table of Contents for This Issue - January 19, 2016.) | Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive

Updated: October 17, 2014 (hsd)