Guitar Genius: How Les Paul Engineered the Solid-Body Electric Guitar and Rocked the World

illus. by Brett Helquist. 56p. bibliog. Chronicle. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452159195.
Gr 2–5—If your child regularly took apart machines in your home or trimmed down a tread on your stairs to make it sound better, how would you react? Fortunately for musicians and music lovers, Les Paul's mother encouraged, even praised, his efforts. From a young age, Les was curious about sound as it relates to music. His initial attempts to learn to play the piano ended with the teacher declaring, "Lester will never learn music…" but a mail-order guitar and a wooden harmonica proved to be just the ticket to launch his ever-widening curiosity about how to improve the sound so it would reach all the way to the back of crowds that came to hear him play. Each performance venue produced additional problems to solve, leading to more and more tinkering with found objects. His persistence and creativity paid off, as he is credited with numerous inventions that have made today's recorded music possible. Paul's story is delightfully told in folksy, familiar language, with numerous onomatopoeias to represent the sounds he produced. There is additional back matter that adds more detail to illuminate his amazing career accomplishments. Helquist's illustrations, created with colorful oils, are equally delightful and pleasant. Text and illustrations radiate exuberance and joy. Readers will marvel at the perseverance and ingenuity Paul demonstrated throughout his life.
VERDICT A strong addition to inspire would-be inventors, and an excellent choice for STEM programs and biography collections.

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