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by Beth Anderson ; illustrated by Caroline Hamel

Pub Date: May 3rd, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-5253-0325-8
Publisher: Kids Can

An Austrian farmer dreams of becoming an inventor.

As a child, Franz Gsellmann longed to create, but life on the farm didn’t leave much time for “dillydallying,” as his father put it. As an adult, he’s inspired by a visit to the 1958 World’s Fair in Belgium, especially by a “gleaming structure” encompassing an elevator, escalator, and lots of colorful lights. Vowing to achieve his dream of building a “fantastical magical phantasmagorical machine,” Franz tends to the farm in the mornings and spends his spare time gathering parts from the junkyard and tinkering in a spare room. No one in his family or the village can understand what he is doing, and when his first apparatus is complete and he flips the switch, it results in an electrical blackout. Despite ridicule from the villagers, Franz persists for 23 years, eventually producing an even bigger whirling, rumbling, and vibrating machine with 53 switches. Again misunderstood for its mechanical pointlessness, it becomes an object of kinetic art, mesmerizing the children who come to watch. Based on a true story, this account of one man’s pursuit will leave readers pondering the nature of inventions—does a creation need a clear purpose? Delicately detailed artwork featuring a deliberately discordant color scheme gives this quirky narrative a slightly surreal feel. Characters are light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A thought-provoking and stimulating historical episode.

(author’s note, information about Franz Gsellmann and his machine, bibliography, resources, puzzle) (Historical picture book. 5-8)