Last week I attended our regional SCBWI conference and by pure chance sat at the same table as Kim Tomsic. When I heard about her new book Guitar Genius: How Les Paul Engineered the Solid-Body Electric Guitar and Rocked the World, illustrated by Brett Helquist, I knew I had to read it. Wow, I’m glad I did.
Kim Tomsic is a master at landing young readers. She immediately draws them in by introducing Les Paul as a child. She makes him relatable by revealing he struggled at music lessons early on. Then she hooks the readers by showing Paul make a homemade radio. There’s no putting the book down at that point.
It helps that Les Paul is a fascinating figure who spots problems and works persistently to solve them. Plus, Tomsic’s upbeat tone captures his energy perfectly.
Brett Helquist’s oil paint on watercolor paper illustrations both reflect the time period and modern expectations. I particularly love that he shows music as brightly-colored shapes in motion. It makes sound tangible.
Guitar Genius is will appeal to those interested in music, those thrilled by inventing and building, and those who love to learn history by reading biographies. Get caught up in a copy today!
1. Explore the Guitar
Show a guitar and talk about the different parts. If possible compare an acoustic guitar versus and an electric one. Explain how they work.
Also see a brief video bio of Les Paul, plus him accompanying Mary Ford singing.
For elementary-aged children, visit Kim Tomsic’s website for a teacher’s guide to download that includes instructions for making a simple harmonica and a guitar!
For young children, print out coloring pages of different types of guitars.
2. Encourage children to build a homemade radio.
There are many instructions online, including at Boys Life.
Age Range: 5 – 8 years
Publisher: Chronicle Books (April 9, 2019)
Disclosure: The book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.
Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.