Bank Street Cook Prize Honor

Mr Ferris and His Wheel received a Cook Prize Honor From Bank Street College of Education today. It was awarded the honor in an impressive lineup of non fiction books.  Below are some photos my publisher shot during the event. It was a nice surprise to be honored—albeit a little scary, because every author and illustrator had to make an acceptance speech! (Mine was short. Very short. And there appears to be someone laughing behind me!)


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Orbis Pictus Honor

Mr. Ferris And His Wheel was awarded a National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Honor for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children! Here is a list of other winners.

Lemuria Bookstore Visit

I had a book event at Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson yesterday for Mr. Ferris And His Wheel. I told the story “dressed” as Mr. Ferris (although I have been known to dress this way anyway), I gave a short presentation of my process illustrating the book, and I drew characters in clothing from the 1890’s. Children were invited to make Ferris Wheel ornaments after the presentation. Some pictures from the event are below….

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Mr. Ferris And His Wheel Back in Print

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel sold out of its first printing in two months— but not to worry! More are on the way. Amazon, Barnes And Nobles, and your independent bookstore should have access to more copies starting December 5th, just in time for your holiday shopping.

Best Books For Aspiring Builders

From now until Christmas, Barnes And Nobles will be showcasing Mr. Ferris And His Wheel in a Best Books For Aspiring Builders display. After signing some books, one of the clerks was nice enough to take my photo next to the display:)
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Children’s Bookshelf

Children’s Bookshelf, a Central Michigan University public radio broadcasting, aired a review about Mr. Ferris and His Wheel and included some activities for teachers to consider sharing with their students after reading the book. Here is their nice review below:

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Mr. Ferris and his Wheel
September 24 – 26

Mr. Ferris and his Wheel written by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and illustrated by Gilbert Ford is the fascinating and true story of the invention of that amusement park favorite—–the Ferris wheel. This non-fiction picture book is full of amazing facts about the building of the first Ferris wheel by George Washington Gale Ferris for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Fair organizers wanted to have something spectacular with which to draw crowds. They decided to hold a contest but, alas, no great idea emerged. Then a construction engineer by the name of Ferris put forth his idea for a wheel that would not only look great but would actual move! Skeptical officials finally said okay but refused to put any money into the construction of the wheel saying that it was “so flimsy that it would collapse.”

Ferris, an expert in steel and successful builder of tunnels and bridges, used his own money and raised private funds to build a steel structure that would become the Queen of the fairway. He had to over come many problems while laying the foundation including three feet deep frost and twenty feet deep quicksand! His wheel was 265 feet above ground, had 100,000 parts and a circumference of 834 feet. It was complete on June 21, 1893. Ferris and his wife were the first to ride along with the mayor. Flags waved, bands played and a crowd of 2,000 gathered to watch. It was thrilling, beautiful and safe went out the cry across the city, country and world.

Kathryn Gibbs Davis has written a clear account of the birth of the Ferris Wheel and has included interesting historical side notes such as how a water wheel he saw as a boy served as Ferris’ inspiration. The back material includes a picture of Mr. Ferris as it appeared in the official Chicago World’s Fair pamphlet—he was thirty-four years old.

Gilbert Ford’s watercolors with ink and digital media treatments are delightful. The cover is striking with its blue background and its wheel of spokes dressed up in gold dots from the light of 3,000 electric bulbs.

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel written by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and illustrated by Gilbert Ford (Houghton Mifflin, 2014) is a lively history book for 5-8 year olds.

This is Sue Ann Martin for THE CHILDREN’S BOOKSHELF.
Questions and Activities:
1. As stated in this book the tallest Ferris wheel in the world today is the Singapore Flyer. It is 541 feet high. How does this compare to the first Ferris wheel? Have you ever gone for a ride on a Ferris wheel? Where was it located? How did it feel? What could you see from the top of the wheel? Why do you think this ride is so popular?

2. Inventors and other creative people often notice something in everyday life that catches their imagination. Author Kathryn Gibbs Davis tells the reader that as a boy George Ferris was inspired by a water wheel he noticed along the shore of the Carson River in Nevada. He imagined riding on it if he was smaller or it was bigger. Study a picture of a water wheel. What similarities can you see between water wheels and Ferris wheels?

3. Have you ever invented or designed something new out of something current? Think about such items as a toy, a tree house, a game, a magic trick? What was your inspiration? Draw a picture of you invention.

4. What do you know about the 1890’s by looking at Gilbert Ford’s wonderful illustrations? Study the pictures and describe what you see which was vastly different then from what it is today—–look at the clothes, the transportation, the stores, the streets and the activities.

Non Fiction Panel at Books of Wonder

Last week was exciting because I not only got to meet Kathryn Gibbs Davis, the author of Mr. Ferris And His Wheel, but I also spoke on a panel for non fiction picture books at Books of Wonder.
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Kathryn and I met for the first time on Friday at the Society of Illustrators and traded stories of our trials we went through in the making of our book at a nearby diner.The following Sunday, Kathryn and I talked about our process again with a non fiction panel of other talented authors and illustrators specializing in non fiction at Books of Wonder.
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It was great to hear about the extreme level of research that those authors and illustrators would go to in order to bring accuracy to their books. After the panel discussion, I found a new admiration in my peers whose love for writing and making art equalled their passion for science and historical figures.
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Publishers Weekly Review

Here is a review for Mr. Ferris And His Wheel from Publishers Weekly out today:

With the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair on the horizon, American engineer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. won a design contest for what would become the Ferris wheel, a “structure that would dazzle and move, not just stand still like the Eiffel Tower” (the star of the previous World Fair). Despite naysayers (“It’s undignified,” grouses one onlooker), George and his crew plowed forward with plans for the giant, circular steel structure, unveiling the machine at the fair’s opening. Davis delivers a tense and satisfying underdog story, while Ford creates a stylized 19th-century landscape, setting impressionistic backgrounds against the hard-edged geometric shapes of the wheel and other structures, colored in deep, subdued blues and violets. Direct quotations and captions explaining historical detail keep the context of the story in sharp focus. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.)

Junior Library Guild

Mr. Ferris And His Wheel is available for purchase today. It is a Junior Library Guild Selection for Fall 2014. You can purchase Mr. Ferris And His Wheel here
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