February 22, 2018

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The Fantastic Ferris Wheel by Betsy Harvey Kraft | SLJ Review

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FerrisKraft, Betsy Harvey. The Fantastic Ferris Wheel: The Story of Inventor George Ferris. illus. by Steven Salerno. 42p. bibliog. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Oct. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627790727. LC 2014044914.

Gr 1-3–The planners of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair were looking for a spectacular, extraordinary, and never-before-seen attraction that would draw in huge crowds. The idea they eventually accepted was George Ferris’s huge observation wheel—what we now call the Ferris wheel. An amazing and awe-inspiring crowd-pleaser, the wheel was 264 feet high and held 36 passenger cars, each of which could hold 60 passengers. This book chronicles the story of Ferris’s invention, explains how he overcame the initial reluctance of the members of the fair committee, and describes the glorious success of the invention, despite a storm with gale-force winds that hit Chicago during the fair. The writing is crisp, clear, and descriptive, moving the story along at a quick pace. While the narrative flows smoothly, a number of thoughts and quotes attributed to Ferris are not documented. The book’s strength are the dramatic, mixed-media illustrations, which capture the enormity of Ferris’s wheel and its spectacular appearance when lit up at night, that steal the show. With an old-fashioned, vintage flavor perfect for the subject matter, these spreads accurately depict the wheel and Chicago in the 1800s—its buildings and its people. Pair with Kathryn Gibbs Davis’s Mr. Ferris and His Wheel (HMH, 2014) for even more information about this remarkable invention. VERDICT A strong addition to book collections dealing with inventors and inventions and useful for discussing how written texts and illustrations work together.–Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

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