The Unexpected Light of Thomas Alva Edison – Raymond Arroyo and Kristine Gehrmann

The Unexpected Light of Thomas Alva Edison by Raymond Arroyo, Kristina Gehrmann
Series: The Turnabout Tales #1
Published by Zonderkidz on March 21, 2023
Genres: Children's, Children's Educational
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From New York Times bestselling author and news anchor Raymond Arroyo comes the first book in the Turnabout Tales series—a picture book biography of one of America’s most famous inventors, Thomas Alva Edison, and a story about how a small spark can create a big light.

No one thought much of young Thomas Alva Edison. He couldn’t focus at school and caused trouble around the house. But where others saw a distracted and mischievous boy, his mother saw imagination and curiosity. At only seven years old, Al, as he was called as a young child, was educated by his mother, who oversaw his rigorous at-home education while also allowing him great freedom to explore and dream. Those early years of encouragement and loving guidance formed the man who would apply those valuable lessons as well as his rich imagination to inventing the phonograph, the motion picture camera, the light bulb, and more.

In The Unexpected Light of Thomas Alva Edison readers will:

meet the larger-than-life personality of Thomas Alva Edison
hear an inspiring tale of an underdog overcoming all the odds
learn about the power of curiosity and imagination
take a carefully researched and actively told romp through history

The Unexpected Light of Thomas Alva Edison includes:
an annotated list of resources and suggested reading
realistic illustrations by artist Kristina Gehrmannan
author’s note by Raymond Arroyo, the author of the bestselling The Spider Who Saved Christmas

The Turnabout Tales series highlights little-known yet fascinating stories of historical figures who went from underdog to hero, and the adults who inspired them to be true to themselves and do big things that changed the world.

This picture book biography is about Thomas Edison’s childhood. It focuses on his scientific curiosity, his mischievous nature, and the ways that his mother believed in him and encouraged him when no one else did. Raymond Arroyo emphasizes Edison’s relationship with his mother throughout the story, and he shares further thoughts in the author’s note. The illustrations from Kristine Gehrmann are colorful and expressive, showing many different scenes and settings with convincing historical details.

The Unexpected Light of Thomas Alva Edison shares information and anecdotes from Edison’s experiences as a child and young adult. The last few pages are about his work as an inventor, but if someone is specifically looking for children’s books about his inventions, they should know that this is mainly about his formative experiences in life, not about what he achieved as an adult. Also, the book has occasional typos and does not mention any of the controversies surrounding Edison, such as how he treated associates like Nikola Tesla. It’s possible to appreciate someone’s brilliance while also openly acknowledging their flaws. I wish that the author’s note had included reflections on this, especially since the book had already addressed Edison’s flaws as a child, such as being too impulsive and reckless.

This book will appeal to families who enjoy dynamic picture book biographies that make historical figures feel real and relatable. This will be especially meaningful for homeschool families, since Edison’s mother taught him at home after a school teacher decided that Edison was unteachable. This book can encourage other hyperactive and mischievous kids who are different than their peers, and the emphasis on a mother’s love will be a blessing to mothers who continue to believe in and empower their children no matter what struggles they face.