Alexander Graham Bell Answers the Call
written and illustrated by Mary Ann Fraser
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Each new sound whispered to Aleck's curiosity. How was he able to hear? What made one noise different from another?
Young Aleck Bell loved listening in his native Scotland. The noises of Edinburgh enticed him. Being the son of a speech therapist fed his interest even more. His father created an alphabet for 129 sounds made by the human voice. Aleck had a deep personal connection to sound. His mother Eliza had very little hearing and used an ear tube to hear. He would speak against her forehead to create vibrations that allowed her to understand him. Aleck also used a two handed manual alphabet to allow his mother to know what was being said during dinner conversations. Family members were entertained by sound shows put on by the brothers Bell. In this Age of Invention, Aleck was busy creating other devices for cleaning grain and making sound travel. His childhood joy was sadly interrupted by the deaths of his two brothers from tuberculosis. This prompted the family to move to North America where Aleck became a teacher for the deaf. As he developed more inventions to help others, Aleck wondered what else he could do. Meeting an electrician named Thomas Watson was a great spark to his desire to conduct more experiments. They worked on a device that could transmit sound and improve on the dots and dashes of a telegraph. More determined after a series of failures, Aleck would soon utter the famous words "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!" and the world would never be the same.
Three reasons (I could list more) why I really, really like this picture book biography. First, I learned a lot about Alexander Graham Bell. Did you know he created, at the time, the fastest boat in the world? Or built a flying machine? Or was president of the National Geographic Society? Second, there are a plethora of informative text boxes. The narrative is great by itself, but the boxes take it to another level. There are illustrations, descriptions, and diagrams about inventions from Aleck and others that give extra information. You could use this book as a mentor text for students writing their own nonfiction books. Speaking of the artwork, my third reason is how the mix of drawings and photographs is a unique and interesting approach to take readers back to Bell's time. With an informative author's note and timeline to boot, this book would be an excellent addition to a biography basket or for a unit on sound.