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.

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