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February 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
Find more Classroom Connections: Get Charged Up!
Everyone knows that it’s electricity that keeps our lights burning, laptops glowing, and televisions buzzing, but knowing exactly what electricity is, how it’s produced, and how it ends up in your home may be more difficult. The books in this annotated bibliography aim to help students understand these electricity basics. Because electricity isn’t always static, however, some titles also introduce children to renewable sources for creating electricity. Pair informational titles with picture books and novels that show all the ways that electricity can be thrilling—especially when used to thwart evil scientists.
Electrical Circuits: Harnessing Electricity. By David Dreier. Illus. by Ashlee Schultz. 2007. 48p. Compass Point, lib. ed., $28.65 (9780756532673). 537. Gr. 5–7.
This straightforward title in the Exploring Science: Physical Science series covers all the bases, including what electricity is, how it appears in nature, and how it has been harnessed for public use. Atoms, the concept of electric charge, and magnetism are explained clearly. Accompanied by sharp, bright color photos, the text also provides information about circuitry and switches.
Electricity. Ed. by Michael Anderson. 2012. 80p. illus. Britannica, lib. ed., $31.70 (9781615306657); e-book, $31.70 (9781615307296). 537. Gr. 7–10.
In this entry in the Introduction to Physics series, encyclopedia-like articles cover electricity fundamentals (e.g., static electricity and electric charges in atoms); electric fields; electric current and circuits; magnetic fields; and motors and generators. Diagrams, archival and modern photos, and a list of further resources help keep the straightforward text from becoming dull.
Electricity and Magnetism. By Dana Meachen Rau. 2009. 32p. illus. Cherry Lake, lib. ed., $28.50 (9781602794597); e-book, $19.95 (9781631882388). 537. Gr. 2–4.
After describing the differences between static electricity and electric current, this entry in the Real World Science series explains how electrical circuits and magnets work. The final chapter discusses the relationship between electricity and magnets and how each can create the other, especially in the form of an electromagnet. Science challenges throughout extend the concepts.
Explore Electricity! With 25 Great Projects. By Carmella Van Vleet. Illus. by Bryan Stone. 2013. 96p. Nomad, paper, $13.95 (9781619301801); e-book, $13.95 (9781619301818). 500. Gr. 2–4.
With an emphasis on STEM, this Explore Your World! series title introduces the basics of electricity, such as currents, circuits, electromagnetism, batteries, and lightning. It also puts humankind’s fascination with electricity in historical context and discusses our dependency on electrical energy, all while embedding 25 activities and experiments. Sidebars contain unfamiliar words in a glossary.
Glowing with Electricity: Science Adventures with Glenda the Origami Firefly. By Thomas Kingsley Troupe. Illus. by Jamey Christoph. 2014. 24p. Capstone, paper, $5.95 (9781479529469); lib. ed., $26.65 (9781479521890). 537. Gr. 1–3.
Glenda, an origami firefly, explains electricity basics to her new friend, a real firefly. She starts with a look at atoms and electrons and continues with how electricity is generated at power plants, the role of natural resources in producing electricity, how electricity travels along power lines, and how electricity follows a path, or circuit. Back matter includes directions for making an origami firefly.
What Are Insulators and Conductors? By Jessica Pegis. 2012. 32p. illus. Crabtree, paper, $8.95 (9780778720836); lib. ed., $26.60 (9780778720836). 621.319. Gr. 3–6.
Following a brief introduction to electricity, this Understanding Electricity title explains how insulators and conductors work and common places where they can be found. It then discusses how lightning, water, air, and vacuums serve as insulators or conductors. Semiconductors and superconductors are also covered. Periodic experiments offer more information on the concepts introduced.
Wired. By Anastasia Suen. Illus. by Paul Carrick. 2007. 32p. Charlesbridge, $16.95 (9781570915994); paper, $7.95 (9781570914942). 621.319. Gr. 2–4.
Detailed yet accessible text begins with “electrons on the move” and explains how electricity is generated at a power plant and travels across wires to brightly lit homes. Suen also covers how interior wiring, breakers, switches, and outlets work. Illustrated with multimedia artwork with a 3-D effect, the book concludes with electricity safety tips. See also Barbara Seuling’s Flick a Switch: How Electricity Gets to Your Home (2003).
Zombies and Electricity. By Mark Weakland. Illus. by Jok. 2013. 32p. Capstone, paper, $7.95 (9781620658222); lib. ed., $29.99 (9781429699297). 537. Gr. 5–8.
With a special blend of graphic-novel art, conversational text, and sight gags with goofy monsters, this Monster Science book uses an undead cast for lessons on atoms, currents, static electricity, circuits, and more. And with zombies electrocuted on almost every page (“Flesh is a good conductor of electricity”), many nontraditional readers and learners will appreciate this unusual presentation.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. By William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. Illus. by Elizabeth Zunon. 2012. 32p. Dial, $17.99 (9780803735118). 621.4. Gr. 1–3.
Based on the adult book that told a true story, this picture-book edition describes how Kamkwamba, 14, had to drop out of school when his village in Malawi became drought-stricken. After reading about windmills in the library, he used scraps of trash to build a windmill tower that brought electricity to his village. An afterword provides more details about the famine and Kamkwamba’s engineering triumph, and oil-paint and cut-paper illustrations round out the offering.
Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World. By Allan Drummond. Illus. by the author. 2011. 36p. Farrar, $17.99 (9780374321840). 333.9. Gr. 1–3.
With winsome illustrations and succinct text, Drummond relates how the small Danish island Samsø received worldwide attention for its “energy independence” when a grade-school teacher started a visionary plan to power the island. Starting with wind energy, he created “free electricity.” Running sidebars, aimed at an older audience, explain such terms as nonrenewable energy.
Understanding Wind Power. By Polly Goodman. 2010. 48p. illus. Gareth Stevens, lib. ed., $31.95 (9781433941337). 621.4. Gr. 5–8.
Beginning with an overview of wind power and its history, including early windmills around the world, this World of Energy title transitions to wind turbines, how they are used to make electricity, and their pros and cons. Accompanied by photos of wind power in action, it concludes with a look at the future of wind power as a free, renewable, and clean source of electricity.
Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty. By Russell Freedman. 2013. 96p. illus. Holiday, $24.95 (9780823423743). 973.3092. Gr. 6–9.
Although the bulk of this biography focuses on Benjamin Franklin’s role in the American Revolution, it dedicates a chapter to his work as a scientist, particularly his experiments with electricity. Freedman describes Franklin’s work with newly invented Leyden jars (which could capture and store electrical charges) as well as his famous kite-and-lightning experiment.
Ben Franklin for Beginners. By Tim E. Ogline. Illus. by the author. 2013. 160p. Steerforth, paper, $16.99 (9781934389485). 973.3092. Gr. 6–9.
Black-and-white caricatures and graphic-novel-like sequences make this detailed, highly readable biography even more accessible. Highlighting Benjamin Franklin as an ingenious generalist, the author organizes chapters according to his many careers, including that of inventor and scientist. Ogline notes the statesman’s pioneering experiments with electricity.
Benjamin Franklin. By Kathleen Krull. Illus. by Boris Kulikov. 2013. 128p. Viking, $15.99 (9780670012879); Puffin, paper, $7.99 (9780147511782); e-book, $7.99 (9781101594087). 509.2. Gr. 5–8.
Focusing on Benjamin Franklin’s role as a scientist rather than a Founding Father and statesman, this Giants of Science biography, featuring Kulikov’s hallmark exaggerated illustrations, explains the many ways that Franklin was the American manifestation of the European Enlightenment, putting his discoveries in clear historical context. Multiple chapters relate his interest in and experiments with electricity. See also Joan Dash’s A Dangerous Engine: Benjamin Franklin, from Scientist to Diplomat (2006).
Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin. By Robert Byrd. Illus. by the author. 2012. 40p. Dial, $17.99 (9780803737495); e-book, $10.99 (9781101648018). 973.3092. Gr. 2–5.
A distinctive period look with detailed ink-and-watercolor artwork provides a striking portrayal of Benjamin Franklin. Double-page spreads offer equally captivating information on his life as a statesman, publisher, philosopher, and scientist. Several spreads are devoted to the latter, particularly his interest in and experiments with electricity. Readers will also enjoy Dennis Brindell Fradin’s Who Was Ben Franklin? (2002).
Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World. By Elizabeth Rusch. Illus. by Oliver Dominguez. 2013. 40p. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763658557). 621.3. Gr. 3–5.
Rusch highlights the inventor’s lifelong fascination with electricity as she traces his training, bitter rivalry with Edison, and the spectacular triumph of wiring the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. She closes the picture-book biography, accompanied by dramatic illustrations, with an analysis of Tesla’s significance, plus simplified descriptions of his best-known demonstrations and devices.
The Man Who Invented the Laser: The Genius of Theodore H. Maiman. By Edwin Britt Wyckoff. 2013. 48p. illus. Enslow, paper, $8.95 (9781464402081); lib. ed., $25.27 (9780766041387). 621.36. Gr. 2–4.
Using a simple and attractive format, this title in the Genius Inventors and Their Great Ideas series emphasizes the perseverance of this lesser-known yet important inventor. It follows a young Ted Maiman as an unruly child who constructed an electronics laboratory in his family’s attic. As an adult, he built on his interest in electricity to invent the first laser.
Nikola Tesla: Physicist, Inventor, Electrical Engineer. By Michael Burgan. 2009. 112p. illus. Compass Point, lib. ed., $35.32 (9780756540869). 631.3092. Gr. 7–12.
This comprehensive title in the Signature Lives series describes how Tesla, growing up in Croatia, resisted family pressure to become a priest and, instead, trained as a scientist. It follows his time in America, where he worked with Edison and Westinghouse and made crucial inventions in electricity and radio. An inviting page design includes photos and boxed screens on each spread.
A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison. By David A. Adler. Illus. by John Wallner and Alexandra Wallner. 1996. 32p. Holiday, $17.95 (9780823412464); paper, $7.99 (9780823414147). 621.3. K–Gr. 2.
Folksy illustrations complement this picture-book biography about the Wizard of Menlo Park. Beginning with Edison’s early curiosity and experiments (which often led to disaster and punishment), it emphasizes many of his life-changing inventions, including an electric lightbulb. The book also describes how Edison set up a station to generate electricity in New York City.
They Changed the World: Bell, Edison and Tesla. By Lewis Helfand. Illus. by Naresh Kumar. 2014. 96p. Campfire, paper, $12.99 (9789380741871). 741.5. Gr. 7–10.
This solid graphic novel focuses on the social and economic differences among Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Edison as well as their shared hunger for making monumental discoveries in electronics that altered the modern world. It shows not only the fundamental intelligence but also the hard work and productive attitudes these three geniuses brought to their work.
Thomas Edison: Inventor with a Lot of Bright Ideas. By Mike Venezia. Illus. by the author. 2008. 32p. Children’s Press, $28 (9780531222096); paper, $6.95 (9780531222096). 621.3092. Gr. 2–4.
Archival photos and humorous cartoons help make this biography an engaging read. This entry in the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Inventors and Scientists series notes that Edison hired a team of scientists to assist him with some of his inventions. With the help of this team, he created a working lightbulb and devised a plan to supply electricity to light up towns and cities.
Thomas Edison for Kids: His Life and Ideas, 21 Activities. By Laurie Carlson. 2006. 160p. illus. Chicago Review, paper, $16.95 (9781556525841); e-book, $13.99 (9781613743041). 621.3092. Gr. 4–7.
As this detailed biography relates many of Edison’s inventions that changed the modern world, it gives considerable attention to his interest in electricity and related inventions, such as the incandescent electric light. The book also introduces Edison’s contemporaries and competition, such as Nikola Tesla. Archival photos, reproductions, and 21 connected activities add further interest.
Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives. By Gene Barretta. Illus. by the author. 2012. 36p. Holt, $17.99 (9780805091083); e-book, $9.99 (9781466816848). 621.3092. Gr. 2–4.
Rather than focusing solely on Thomas Edison’s life, this informational picture book acknowledges the team of scientists and engineers that assisted him with research and development. Illustrated with cartoonlike artwork, the book compares present-day gadgets and technology, such as batteries, lightbulbs, and vending machines, with inventions created in Edison’s lab.
A Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood and Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison. By Don Brown. Illus. by the author. 2010. 32p. Houghton, $17.99 (9780547194875); e-book, $17 (9780547773117). 900. Gr. 1–3.
Brown’s picture-book account of Edison’s childhood begins with his poor performance in school, voracious reading habits, and chemistry experiments during his downtime at numerous jobs. Jaunty artwork helps show how his work with the telegraph turned into 1,093 inventions, most notably the electric lightbulb. An author’s note explains his business battles with Nikola Tesla.
Electricity in Fiction
Battle of the Ampere. By Richard Paul Evans. 2013. 320p. Simon Pulse/Mercury Ink, $17.99 (9781442475113); paper, $9.99 (9781442475120); e-book, $9.99 (9781442475137). Gr. 7–9.
Michael Vey can manipulate electricity in this third volume in the high-octane, best-selling series. As he tries to stop the nefarious Dr. Hatch from controlling the world’s power, he finds himself in the Amazon rain forest this time. There he joins forces with Tessa, whose ability to amplify powers comes in handy as they try to evade numerous armies, free Glows held captive, and return home, once and for all.
Benjamin Franklinstein Lives! By Matthew McElligott and Larry Tuxbury. Illus. by Matthew McElligott. 2010. 128p. Putnam, $12.99 (9780399252297); Puffin, paper, $7.99 (9780142419359); e-book, $7.99 (9781101543436). Gr. 4–7.
Science-whiz Victor has a 97 percent chance of winning the science fair with his volcano model. That is, until a lightning bolt reawakens a dormant Ben Franklin, who has been sleeping in an electrical muck-filled box hidden in a secret basement for the past couple centuries. After imbibing too much electricity, Ben thinks destroying Victor’s volcano might be helpful in this light, funny read, featuring diagrams, graphs, and drawings. Benjamin Franklinstein Meets Thomas Deadison (2012) continues the fun.
Edison’s Gold. By Geoff Watson. 2010. 320p. Egmont, $15.99 (9781606840948); paper, $7.99 (9781606842300); e-book, $7.99 (9781606844717). Gr. 4–7.
Seventh-grader Tom Edison (great-great-grandson of his famous namesake) learns that his father has been fired. Hoping to restore his family’s fortunes, Tom discovers a clue that might lead to his ancestor’s greatest discovery, a method for creating gold. He begins a wild treasure hunt to solve the mystery and outsmart the bad guys, ironically led by a man descended from Edison’s archenemy, Nikola Tesla.
Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab: A Mystery with Electromagnets, Burglar Alarms, and Other Gadgets You Can Build Yourself. By Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith. 2013. 240p. illus. Quirk, $12.95 (9781594746482); e-book, $12.95 (9781594746628). Gr. 4–7.
Nick and Tesla, 11-year-old twins, are gloomy about spending the summer with their eccentric inventor uncle, Newt. But once Newt gives them free rein of his very messy, probably very dangerous lab, they’re more optimistic. Their inventions lead them to a creepy mansion guarded by rottweilers and thugs. The twins use deductive reasoning to build gadgets, outsmart the thugs, and solve a mystery. Look for more high jinks in Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle (2014).
Snivel: The Fifth Circle of Heck. By Dale E. Basye. Illus. by Bob Dob. 2012. 448p. Random, $16.99 (9780375868344); paper, $7.99 (9780375868061); lib. ed., $19.99 (9780375968341); e-book, $7.99 (9780375898846). Gr. 4–7.
In this installment of the series featuring Milton Fauster and his goth big sister, Marlo, the siblings save the world again. This time it’s from a scheme by mad-scientist Nikola Tesla to power a return to life with the souls of unsuspecting video-gamers. As usual, there’s quick action amid a relentless barrage of puns, double entendres, and shtick, with, plainly, more to come.
Tesla’s Attic. By Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman. 2014. 256p. Disney/Hyperion, $16.99 (9781423148036). Gr. 5–7.
After a toaster falls from an attic in the ramshackle Victorian house that 14-year-old Nick has moved into and hits him on the head, the teen disposes of most of the things in the attic at a garage sale. In this supernatural tale, part of a planned trilogy, Nick discovers that the items he sold are the magical inventions of Nikola Tesla, and he must recover them before they fall into the hands of a murderous secret society.
The Tweedles Go Electric. By Monica Kulling. Illus. by Marie Lafrance. 2014. 32p. Groundwood, $16.95 (9781554981670). PreS–Gr. 2.
It’s 1903, and the Tweedles are going modern and buying a car. Rather than buying an unreliable steam car or a dirty, noisy gas car, Papa purchases an electric car. A green one, of course. But in this new century, people don’t really understand electricity, and an electric car sounds dangerous. Stylized mixed-media collage artwork illustrates the Tweedles’ adventures in their “smart” car.
The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow. By Tim Kehoe. Illus. by Guy Francis and Mike Wohnoutka. 2009. 192p. Little, Brown, $9.99 (9780316056656); paper, $6.99 (9780316056663); e-book, $4.99 (9780316081719). Gr. 3–5.
Boy inventor Vincent Shadow spends most of his time in his secret attic lab, tinkering with the toy prototypes that he dreams up in blinding visions similar to the ones experienced by his hero, Nikola Tesla. After poking around a recently discovered cache of Tesla inventions, Vincent is invited to show one of his creations in a contest put on by the Willy Wonka–ish toy-magnate Howard G. Whiz.
Angela Leeper is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Center at the University of Richmond (Virginia).
The following are suggestions for sharing books about electricity across the curriculum while implementing the Common Core State Standards. You can find more information about the standards at www.corestandards.org.
In the Classroom: After students have read the section on static electricity in Carmella Van Vleet’s Explore Electricity!, have them carry out the related activity involving rubbing a balloon on one’s hair. They can then add to this activity by experimenting to see whether hair color has any effect on static electricity. As students chart results, they can discuss how the activity connects to the concepts in Van Vleet’s book.
Common Core Connections
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.3. Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
In the Classroom: Ask students to pick two biographies about the same inventor, such as Mike Venezia’s Thomas Edison and Laurie Carlson’s Thomas Edison for Kids, and identify common elements in both (e.g., childhood influences and character traits that made the inventor successful). Next, ask them to present their findings in a chart, written paragraph, or oral report.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.9. Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3. Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.
In the Classroom: In Allan Drummond’s Energy Island, classmates brainstorm ways to make their island less dependent on nonrenewable energy sources and use less electricity. After reading this text and discussing the meaning of renewable energy, students can list their own ideas for encouraging the use of renewable energy in their homes and communities and determine which options are most feasible.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.1. Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.3. Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.4. Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.
In the Classroom: William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind depicts how Kamkwamba constructed a windmill made of trashed items and brought electricity to his drought-stricken village. Either individually or in small groups, upper-elementary (or even older) students can make windmill models from scrap materials and test them with a small fan. Afterward, they can relate the experience in a written report or story.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.8. Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
In the Classroom: After reading Lewis Helfand’s They Changed the World, students can research the lives of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla in more detail. Then they can present their findings in a debate format, analyzing such concepts as the scientists’ varying visions of electricity production and disbursement.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.4. Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.4. Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
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