ZAP! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge by M. Kulling
Kulling, Monica. ZAP! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge. Illustrated by Bill Slavin. Tundra Books, 2016.
In this, her ninth contribution to Tundra Books’ Great Ideas Series, prolific children’s author Monica Kulling distills and simplifies the life and inventions of immigrant engineer and scientist Nikola Tesla (1856–1943) for primary school readers. Confining her story to the first half of Tesla’s long life, from his humble origins in Slovenia (then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), to his achievements as nineteenth-century America’s foremost electrical engineering genius, Kulling has maintained a manageable length compatible with the attention span of her audience.
The rivalry between Tesla and his one-time patron and employer, Thomas Edison, over the suitability of alternating versus direct electrical current (AC vs. DC) is described without exposing all the sordid details of their rivalry. The story then quickly moves on to Tesla’s partnership with George Westinghouse to illuminate the 1892-93 Chicago world’s fair site, and to build the first hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls, employing alternating current, a system that allowed electricity to be transmitting over greater distances more cheaply and efficiently than Edison’s rival system. Kulling ends her story in 1898, when Tesla demonstrated a model boat controlled by radio waves, an invisible force that he suggested might also be used for wireless communication, a concept soon made real by radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi.
Apart from an anachronistic use of the word “robot,” Kulling’s text is historically and scientifically accurate, clearly written, and age-appropriate, without being condescending. Bill Slavin’s illustrations are nicely evocative of the late nineteenth-century buildings and workshops, and are scaled large enough for story-hour readings to groups of children.
Reviewer: Merrill Distad
Highly recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Merrill Distad is Associate University Librarian (Research and Special Collections Services) and University Archivist, University of Alberta, and is the co-editor of Peel’s Bibliography of the Canadian Prairies to 1953 (Toronto, 2003). He is the author, most recently, of The University of Alberta Library: The First Hundred Years, 1908–2008 (Edmonton, 2009).
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).