2007 Winner: Hands-On Science Book

Thomas Edison for Kids: His Life and Ideas: 21 Activities, by Laurie Carlson. Chicago Review Press, 2006.

Thomas Edison for Kids: His Life and Ideas: 21 Activities, by Laurie Carlson, is a 146-page biography of arguably one of the most influential minds in America. This well-written book contains nine chapters that take the reader through Edison's life from his birth in 1847 to his death in 1931. In addition to getting to know Edison as a person, readers will learn about his work as an inventor, especially in the areas of electricity and magnetism. The book opens with a brief introduction to Edison himself, followed by a time line that demarks significant events in his life. The content represents an excellent view of the relationship between science, technology, and society; in addition, the history and nature of science provides a backdrop for the narrative description of Edison's curiosity, experimentation, inductive reasoning, and many inventions.

The narrative text is augmented by many illustrations, including drawings, sketches, and photographs. Ample text boxes appear in the margins and provide interesting links to related inventors and ideas. For example, one text box presents a concise description of patents and copyrights, while others cite related inventors and businessmen, such as Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford, and George Westinghouse. In general, the book provides a nice set of activities that supplement the text.

Each chapter is strengthened by the inclusion of two or three related hands-on activities. For example, students can build a simple circuit to test various materials for electrical conductivity. Each activity contains a list of materials needed, along with a narrative description of the steps to take; embedded within the narrative is the scientific explanation of the content.

The book concludes with a resource section that lists sources of supplies, Edison's major inventions, locations to visit, and selected Web sites. There are also a bibliography and an index. The reading level and related activities would likely serve students in upper elementary grade levels through middle school and perhaps beyond. This book is made to order for those who seek to demonstrate how social studies and science are naturally connected.

About the Author

Laurie Carlson currently teaches history at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon. Laurie, husband Terry, son, and grandson live near Dallas, Oregon, where they have begun restoring a farmhouse on six acres. Her books are wide-ranging, including Colonial Kids, Classical Kids, Green Thumbs, More Than Moccasins, Days of Knights and Damsels, Westward Ho, and several serious adult history books, including A Fever in Salem: a New Interpretation of the New England Witchcraft Trials, and Cattle: An Informal Social History. New book projects include a book about sunlight's relationship to human health and behavior, and a book for young readers about the history of petroleum.