________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 33 . . . . April 29, 2016


Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge. (Great Ideas Series).

Monica Kulling. Illustrated by Bill Slavin.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2016.
32 pp., hardcover & epub, $19.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-522-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77049-523-4 (epub).

Subject Headings:
Tesla, Nikola, 1856-1943-Juvenile literature.
Electrical engineers-United States-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Inventors-United States-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Electrification-History-Juvenile literature.
Edison, Thomas A. (Thomas Elva), 1847-1931-Juvenile literature.

Grades 1-5 / Ages 6-10.

Review by Aileen Wortley.

***½ /4



Nikola Tesla came to America with a dream. In 1882, he'd had a vision of a motor that ran on alternating current electricity. But he had no money to build it.

In direct current, the electrical current always flows in the same direction between the positive and negative terminals. In alternating current, the direction reverses, or alternates, sixty times per second.

But Thomas Edison was only interested in his own system. "The future belongs to direct current," he said.

"Machines would be more efficient if they ran on alternating current," explained Tesla. "Parts would not break down so often. You could send power over great distances and not have to build as many power stations."

But Edison had invested a lot of time and money in his system. He didn't want to give it up. He offered Tesla fifty thousand dollars to make direct current more efficient.

When the work was done, Edison refused to pay.

Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in Croatia. As a child, he had an amazing memory and was something of a prodigy. He came to New York when he was 28, hoping to gain employment with Thomas Edison. With opposing views on the efficiency of alternating versus direct electrical current and with distinctly opposite natures, their relationship did not last. However, Tesla found support in George Westinghouse, entrepreneur and engineer, who gave him a job. He also gave Tesla the opportunity to turn his theories into reality by providing electricity for the 1893 Chicago World Fair. Two years later, Tesla's childhood dream of building the first hydro-electric plant in Niagara Falls came to fruition. Gradually, his theory of alternating current gained acceptance.

      Aimed at children aged six to ten, the "Great Idea" series of picture book biographies usually features lesser-known inventors. In this, the ninth in the series, the reader is provided with a peek into Tesla's achievements and personality as well as a simple explanation of the concept of electrical currents. Coincidentally, the reader also gets a snapshot of Thomas Edison through his "charged" relationship with Tesla. A bibliography, including books and websites, encourages further reading. A poem about Tesla's childhood and later predictions regarding the future use of robots provide an extra dimension.

      Kulling conveys the impact of Tesla's invention while simultaneously creating a meaningful and engaging story. She depicts the inventor as a real personality, complete with idiosyncrasies, showing him as a man of pride, with a burning eagerness to bring his ideas to fruition. The readability of Zap! will encourage children to learn more of this fascinating and rather eccentric man.

      The luscious artwork of Bill Slavin, in the form of digitally coloured pen and ink drawings, complements the text perfectly. In a series of double page spreads, Slavin's whimsical illustrations reflect the atmosphere of the times, conveying action and vitality and bringing the story to life. His representations of Tesla, Westinghouse and Edison are remarkably similar to their photographs!

      Monica Kulling has written over fifty titles for children, including picture books and biographies. Bill Slavin is the illustrator of over a hundred books and has received many nominations and awards. With its scientific slant and rich historic atmosphere, Zap! is another 'hats off' addition to the series.

Highly Recommended.

Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian from Toronto, ON.

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.

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