Thomas Edison - 3 Good Chapter Books

Thomas Edison - A Review of 3 Good Biographies

My Dave (8) just finished a report on Thomas Edison and I thought I'd take advantage of this opportunity to do my own report on the books we used.

I selected three books at the library for his resources and I'm pretty happy with them. They cover the great man's life at different reading levels and at varying depths.

The Books we used are:

bookcover of  A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison by David Adlerbookcover of  Thomas Edison : the wizard inventor by Haydn Middletonbookcover of Thomas Edison by Lola Schaefer

  1. Thomas Edison (Lola Schaefer, AR 2.0)
  2. A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison (David Adler, AR 4.3)
  3. Thomas Edison : the wizard inventor (Haydn Middleton, AR 4.8)
I'll talk about them in more detail now.

bookcover of Thomas Edison by Lola Schaefer

This is the book we began with. I like using these little biographies from "Pebble Books"/Capstone as a starting place because they cover their people with the bare minimum of verbiage and give children a great overview, without overwhelming them with too much detail.

Though only touching on major events, Ms. Schaefer does take the time to try to make Edison kid-friendly. She explains, for example, that Thomas was a curious child, and that he went to work young, selling newspapers and food on trains when he was only 12. To compliment this narrative there are pictures of Edison and his childhood home.

In format, Schaefer's book is like the others in the series. There is always a photo or drawing on the left hand page, text on the right, with a timeline stretching across the bottoms of all pages. Forgive me for the picture (below) being sideways, but it seemed the best approach to show you the layout.

sample pages from Thomas Edison by Lola Schaefer

We read this book first and last. First to provide a broad foundation; last to help Dave to organize his thoughts for his paper.

As you see from the picture (above), the text is large and sparse and kid-friendly.
Young Thomas

Wizard of Menlo Park

Words to Know

Read More

Internet Sites

Index/Word List


Reading Information:
Word Count: 196
Page Count:  24
Reading Level: 2.0 / points: 0.5
AR quiz: 61709
-- another review available

bookcover of  A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison by David Adler

The next book on our list was
A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison by David Adler. This book has quite a bit more text than Schaefer's, and it uses colorful artwork in place of photos.

One of the things I like about it is how Adler made sure to include incidents that children could relate to. He describes, for example, how young Thomas received a whipping in the town square when he burnt down his father's barn. And how he squashed some eggs when he tried to hatch them himself.
Good boy-stuff, I can tell you. This was David's favorite fact.

 More detailed account of Edison's life. This book has smaller print and more text. Okay read-aloud.

This book doesn't have a time-line like the first book, but it does have an Important Dates page at the end which serves the same purpose.

sample page 1 from A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison by David Adlersample page 111 from A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison by David Adler
sample page 2 from A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison by David Adler


Word Count: 1,370
Page Count:  30
Accelerated Reading Level: 4.3 / points: 0.5
AR quiz: 29431
Lexile: AD700L

bookcover of  Thomas Edison : the wizard inventor by Haydn Middleton

Haydn Middleton's Edison is the most detailed of the three books we used. Whereas David Adler's book gives a sketchy (though sufficient) account of events in Edison's life, Middleton fills in more details.

For example, in describing how young Edison saved a boy's life in a train yard, Mr. Middleton explains that the boy was the station-master's son. This clarified for us how it was that the boy's grateful father was able to grant Thomas' wish to learn Morse Code and to use a telegraph.

Haydn's details also include more information about Edison's personal affairs. Though younger children will most likely miss the nuances that show that Edison was a workaholic, they will no doubt grasp why he fell in love with his second wife. [Not only was she was lovely and smart, she also knew Morse code, which was a real feature at that point because Edison had become so deaf that this was the principal manner in which they communicated.]

Out of the three books we read, Haydn Middleton's Thomas Edison provides the most mature perspective on the great inventor. Good read-aloud.

While still very positive, this Oxford publication does not entirely gloss over the negative aspects of Edison's life -- like his being a workaholic.

sample page from Thomas Edison : the wizard inventor by Haydn Middleton
THOMAS EDISON: The Wizard Inventor
    Page Count:  32
    Reading Level: 4.8 (updated this post and I cannot find verification of the reading number)


    This article by Caryna St. John reminded me how to explain to an 8 year-old how to organize a paper: "How to write an A+ essay in twenty minutes"

    One interesting project you might try is a time-line which places Edison's life in the context of national events. This is particularly interesting because he lived a long life and was witness to incredible changes.

    When Edison was born, for example, there were still slaves in the United States. And since he lived to see the beginning of the Great Depression, he got to see not only electric lights put into millions of homes, but also the coming of age of the automobile and planes. Juxtaposing his life against these inventions as well as WWI and other events really assists children in understanding this amazing time period in world history.

    Pam T
    Somewhere in the X-burbs

    (updated September 2013)