7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #169: Featuring Don Brown

h1 May 30th, 2010 by jules

“While he was visiting one office near a railroad station, the three-year-old son of the telegraph operator wandered onto the track and into the path of a freight train.
Brave Tom dashed to the boy, scooped him up, and dove clear.”

(Click to enlarge spread.)

This morning, I’m highlighting a nonfiction title from author/illustrator Don Brown, who visited 7-Imp in ’09. This, his latest title, tells the boyhood story of Thomas Edison, “{c}lever Tom, energetic Tom, brave Tom, hard-working Tom, curious Tom…” A Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood & Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison, released by Houghton Mifflin early this month, captures the curious, energetic spirit of the young Edison and ultimately takes us to the grown man, who is to have said, even though he brought the world a total of 1,093 patents, “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.” Always engaging, the book is filled with fascinating anecdotes about Edison’s life, and Brown’s watercolors, loose lines, and subtle palette (this one is particularly—and beautifully—light-infused) manage to express so much with such simplicity.

Pictured below are the cover, a couple more spreads, and some early sketches and the book’s thumbnail sketches from Don. I thank Don for sharing his art work this morning. Enjoy.

“He read history and philosophy books. He read books on mechanics, electricity, and chemistry. They inspired Tom to make a laboratory in the Edisons’ cellar.
With a pal, he experimented with acids and chemicals.
Poor Mrs. Edison worried that they would ‘blow [their] heads off.'”

(Click to enlarge spread.)

“Then, in 1879, Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb. No longer would flickering candles or the wicks of whale oil and gas lamps light the world by fire. Instead, the ‘little globe of sunshine’ would brighten people’s lives.”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

Sketch detail: “Most days, waiting in Detroit for the return ride home, Tom visited the public library. He’d start at the first book on a bottom shelf and read one after another until it was time to move to the next shelf.”

Early sketch: “Mastering the key and making sense of the clicking messages were the hard-won skills of telegraph operators. People admired them for their smart, modern jobs, and Tom longed to be one. He haunted telegraph offices
and collected bits of know-how.”

A WIZARD FROM THE START. Copyright © 2010 by Don Brown. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All images here reproduced with permission of Don Brown. All rights reserved.

* * * * * * *

As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New folks are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1). This is a belated kick: A new mixed CD from Eisha. Her mixes are always so good that I feel as if I should pay her for them.

2). My oldest wrapped up Kindergarten this week. Everyone told me it would fly by, and—for some reason—it didn’t feel like that to me. But it’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that she’ll be a first-grader soon.

3). Last week, I got a beautiful gift from a friend, an original picture book illustration that is so beautiful I can hardly take it in. I seriously need a framing fund.

4). Yesterday, my girls and I got to visit someone who is clearly one of the world’s most fabulous teachers (second-grade teacher at a private school in Nashville). She also reviews for the Horn Book and is an all-around dynamo children’s lit enthusiast. Got to see her classroom, the school’s library, and see her lovely home, filled with picture books and picture book art, so you know I was comfy and happy.

5). How Natalie Merchant decided to make Ogden Nash’s “The Adventures of Isabel” a bluegrass number on her latest CD. I have a big ‘ol crush on that song. Also, the first song, “Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience” gives me golf-ball-sized chills every time I hear it, and the closing orchestration on it SLAYS ME.

6). I saw this movie this week with a friend. Fine, fine acting, though very hard to watch in spots.

I think that’s about it. How about you all on this holiday weekend? What are your kicks?

19 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #169: Featuring Don Brown”

  1. What great illustrations.

  2. The Edison book looks wonderful. Love the sketch of Tom reading in the library. And now you’ve made me very anxious to hear Natalie’s CD. Lots of other people seem to like it, too.

    And the year did fly by — seems like Piper just started Kindergarten.

    A few kicks:

    Attended our friend Bob’s memorial service last weekend. Although his passing is definitely NOT a kick, gathering with those who knew and loved him was. We shared some great memories of a truly good person.

    As I type this, I can hear the sound of hundreds of motorcycles making their way into D.C. for Rolling Thunder. It’s the soundtrack for every Memorial Day, and a totally cool thing that people from all over the country travel hundreds of miles to honor our war veterans.

    Our baby birds have fledged! We saw them gathering their courage on the porch roof ledge before taking off.

    Received a copy of The Underwear Salesman from Elaine, which I won at her blog last month. Love it!

    Read the first three books in Graham Salisbury’s Calvin Coconut series. Such fun stories set in Hawai’i, and with boy appeal!

    Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend. 🙂

  3. I love stories about “great people” when they were kids! And isn’t it interesting that such wonderful illustrations about the boyhood of Edison, of all people, should be (as you say) “infused with light“?

    OTOH I wouldn’t wonder, these days, if Houghton-Mifflin’s legal department insisted on filling the copyright page with legal disclaimers on the order of “Don’t Try This at Home.” The image of young Tom and his pal in the basement, mixing stuff together by the light of a candle and a lantern, ignited my lingering boy’s enthusiasm just as I’m sure it will the imaginations of much much younger and less neurotic readers! 🙂

    Isn’t that a great album, Jules? (Merchant’s, I mean.) Inspired concept, and that it doesn’t disappoint in the execution says a lot about her talent and determination.

    About the dragon-tattoo girl: our local bookstores all have those books on prominent display. I keep thinking I really need to read at least one of them… but (as often happens) I’ll probably be the last person in the room mumbling quizzically while everyone else talks about ’em.

    Jama, nervous fledglings lined up on a roof ledge just daring one another to go first (I assume the last may have been literally a rotten egg): what a great picture!


    1. The Missus’s and my 10th anniversary yesterday. (Awwwww.) True, we did “practice” getting it right for seven years before finally diving in. Still…

    2. Anniversary itself aside, I did (SHHHHHHH!!!) get her a very scary-good anniversary present, which I won’t actually give to her until we’re Officially Celebrating over dinner in New Orleans next weekend. [Yes, New Orleans… paging R.M.!]

    3. I don’t know about y’all, but I crazy-loved the Lost finale. They handled the mystico-spiritual overtones rather more clumsily than they needed to or maybe should have, but I myself don’t buy the “They’re all in Purgatory!” explanation.

    4. And I also was very happy with the American Idol outcome this season (the way it went didn’t surprise, but I’d have said Crystal deserved the win somewhat more). And ditto the finale of Fringe. And now I’m looking forward to a summer’s worth of not being bound to any TV series at all.

    5. This week we disassembled the “corral” we’d built several weeks ago, to keep The Pooch confined to a small portion of the living room while recovering from a double knee surgery. She was like an East Berliner in November, 1989… right down to the tremulous glance over her shoulder as she stepped over the suddenly gone border. Heh.

    6. Long-distance sibling support.

    7. What’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico now is freaking the bejeezus out of everybody who lives in a Gulf state. But, as happens with most disasters, a small bit of redemption can be had in some damned fine writing about it. E.g., this (and all the linky love at the foot of that page).

  4. Happy Anniversary, John! New Orleans sounds like a great place to celebrate. Such fine food. Mmmmmmm. 🙂

  5. I know I haven’t been around much lately. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mother and trying to help with her transition into her new living arrangements. I’ve also been tending to some “wedding” plans–not mine, of course.


    I’ll leave my kicks for the last two weeks.

    1. Someone very near and dear to me–not my mother–got good news from a doctor recently. That’s my best kick of all.

    2. My mother is able to get around with her walker now and doesn’t need a wheelchair any longer. She is also in much less pain.

    3. My daughter and I made plans to take our closest female relatives to brunch a few weeks before her “big day”–two aunts and three of her cousins who will be doing readings at her wedding ceremony. We bought her cousins beautiful bracelets–which I got at a great discount at a Macy’s jewelry sale.

    4. My husband went to Maine this weekend to visit with a couple of friends. I decided to stay home and spend time with my mother–and one of my nieces whose husband and sons also went off to Maine. Last night, my niece and I enjoyed the eggplant lasagna my husband had made before he left–and the bellinis I made. After dinner we watched a movie.

    5. Today, I’m going to my niece’s with lobster rolls and fixings for mojitos.

    6. The weather has been absolutely perfect this holiday weekend–sunny, warm, and dry. I even got some yard work done.

    7. Lita Judge was the guest speaker at our reading council’s spring dinner meeting on May 19th. She made a fantastic presentation! She has written some great books for kids.

  6. Hi, Phillips. Thanks. Just peeked at your blog. Good stuff.

    Jama, so sorry that memorial service even had to happen, but I’m glad you got to re-connect. And do you mean you SAW the baby birds take off? That is seriously cool.

    John, do you wanna know how lame/behind-the-times I am, re novels for grown-ups and movies and such? I didn’t even know The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was adapted from a novel. Seriously. My friend just said, “hey, let’s go see that movie.” Of course, she was in-the-know. Now I know how huge they are.

    Happy anniversary, and we wanna hear all about the gift later, if you’re so inclined to share. And your description of The Pooch venturing out made me laugh outloud.

  7. Elaine, such rich kicks. Glad your mother’s doing well and that you’re gearing up for that wedding. The brunch sounds wonderful. The wedding sounds like it’ll be very special. And seven cheers for Lita, too!

  8. Thank you, Thomas Edison, for sharing your knowledge and work with the world.

    Thanks, Don, for sharing your sketches and your artwork in turn. 🙂

    Jules: Congratulations to your growing-up girls! *sniff sniff* Enjoy the music and the images.

    jama: Sending strength to Bob’s loved ones. I’ve read one of the Calvin Coconut books and thought it was just right for the projected age group.

    JES: Happy anniversary! Glad that the pup is recovering. Hurrah for Fringe and alternate dimensions. I was happy to have the occasion to shout, “Defenestrate!” (Yes, it was directed at Olivia. Sadly, she didn’t follow my command.)

    Elaine M.: Glad that you have been spending time with your mom, and that she is doing better. Have fun at your niece’s, and continue to enjoy all of the fun events and planning with your daughter.

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) The staged reading on Thursday – We really pulled it off.
    2) Conflicts not conflicting as horribly as I worried they would – Keep your fingers crossed, but I’ve been told that I should be able to do both plays in which I’ve been cast.
    3) Confidence
    4) Confidants
    5) Rest
    6) Okay
    7) My first national television appearance in a speaking role is airing tomorrow night! Unfortunately, it’s on a channel I don’t get. I’m relying on the kindness of family and friends who have promised to tape the show and will then get me a copy.

  9. Jeepers, Little Willow, can WE see you in this TV role? I don’t get many channels, but I have friends who do. 🙂

    Jules, I’ve been listening to those Natalie Merchant CDs quite a lot since I got them. Good stuff all around.

    My kicks:
    1. The weather continues to be incredible here in WNY.
    2. I got arugula at the public market yesterday, which I used to make this pasta dish I do love that I have been craving for these last few arugula-less months.
    3. I’m still enjoying reading translations for the Batchelder, although I did read one book this week I found repulsive. That’s not altogether a non-kick, though–I mean, at least it was worth a strong reaction.
    4. I visited with a friend yesterday who lives in South Dakota but is here for a week.
    5. I agree with JES about the LOST finale–I really enjoyed watching it and have thought about it quite a bit through the week.
    6. On Friday night, my mom and I went to see this movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076162/. It’s a bit indescribable, but it made me laugh SO HARD.
    7. I got out for a nice bike ride yesterday. There is really so much to love about this time of year.

  10. I just placed a hold on Don Brown’s book about Thomas Edison. I’d be keen to see a children’s biography of Nikola Tesla, too. (Hint, hint.)

    Congratulations to Little Willow on her first national tv appearance in a speaking role! And happy anniversary to JES.

  11. Congrats, Little Willow! Yes, tell us where we can see it. And I’m so glad you get to do both plays; I remember you mentioning this last week.

    Adrienne, you said “CDs,” as in plural. And I thought I had remembered reading that this project of hers was a two-CD set. Why is it that I only have one?

    “Repulsive.” Wow. Strong. The teacher I visited yesterday is on Caldecott this year. ENVY.

    And, you know, I totally meant for Lost to make my list, too. That should have been kick #7, but I’m scatter-brained. I will miss it, despite its ability to make me crazy.

    I read the link about the movie you saw, Adrienne, and I have to say “freakishly serene” made me laugh.

    Hi, Farida. I totally understand not leaving kicks, but I certainly hope that doesn’t mean you had a kick-less week.

  12. Adrienne, Farida, Jules: Thank you! 🙂
    The show is called UNUSUAL SUSPECTS, and the first episode (which I’m in) airs tomorrow, Monday, May 31st @ 10 PM EST/PST on Investigation Discovery – ID.

    Adrienne: Hurrah for visits from and with friends. Sorry that a repulsive book interrupted your happy reading flow.

    Farida: Have you read Force Majeure by Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski? It’s fantastic! It’s fiction with Tesla influence.

    Jules: Danke. I have been quite worried about all of it. I just want everything to work out.

  13. I love Don Brown’s books, I think the ‘Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa’ is a favorite. It takes me back to when I was a kid obsessed with ‘Born Free’ and wanted to be a game warden in Africa.

    Thanks for the tip about Natalie Merchant. I hadn’t heard of her and now I’ll have to make a trip to ‘Grigorian’ to treat myself. (that might be a pre-kick for next week!)

    Kicks for this week:

    *Mixed emotion kick, as we didn’t win the Libris award. But had a great time with the wonderful people at ‘Woozles’ who did. It was a great evening with passionate book people! Made me glad to be a bookseller.

    *Connected with friends that I only see once a year. (and met some hysterically funny new ones)

    *sleeping in!

    *Getting new music from a friend with great taste, ‘Pervane – Moth’ by Aziz Senol Filiz
    http://bit.ly/zavHf especially good for a hot sultry night or if planning a trip to Turkey.

    *the temperature finally dropping!

    *It’s my son’s birthday today (25yrs old – Jules, the time really does go fast but every year is wonderful) We have a birthday brunch tradition of eggs benedict. Mmmmm…

    *sitting out under the birch trees with ice tea, galleys and a stack of fall catalogs. (gentle breeze blowing)

    A wondrous week to all!

  14. APPLAUSE for Mr. Brown’s celebration of Mr. Edison; may it be read by many a junior inventor. I always wonder where those up-and-coming geniuses are out there. I worry about them. And pray they’ve landed in an encouraging place with the right teacher and librarian and books and brave Mom to help them discover their own light, like Thomas Edison did.

    Jules – yes! Danish director Oplev walked that thriller tightrope and his camera didn’t look away; tough but truth. Very un-Hollywood. Reminded me of Luc Besson’s “Nikita”.

    Phillip – your 5/29 post. Astaire is my hero; brainy choreography.

    jama – The cool reference to Rolling Thunder as a soundtrack for Memorial Day. I can imagine it…

    JES – Happy Anniversary. It’s our 24th tomorrow (we did the 10-year lead-up as well.) And the ‘Love the Gulf’ post was so lovely and… so sad. Thanks for sharing it.

    Elaine – you mother has a very caring daughter. Enjoy the mojitos, you deserve to.

    Little Willow – Always wait for your post with an anticipatory smile. I am SO crossing my fingers for you conflict-wise. I once took a day job choreographing a tv series (a break I just couldn’t turn down) when I was already doing 9 performances a week in a Nat. Touring Co. Crazed 6 months. But, looking back, so glad I went for it. Hang in there, use your allies and take your vitamins. : – )
    (Can we have a character name or descript on TV gig?)

    Adrienne – Happy your arugula came in. (It’s just fun to say “arugula.”)

    My Kicks:

    1. my plum trees’ foliage, now in full and deep-purple display.

    2. found a poetic form (finally) that I believe will work for my picture book.

    3. started a new diet (sigh) that I am still in the ‘hopeful’ stage about.

    4. for my son’s 15th birthday he wanted, not another gaming system, but Art. (!)

    5. Susie Cake’s red velvet cupcake, or maybe chocolate peanut butter; a toss up).
    (I know this negates the above-mentioned diet, but, one b-day cupcake?)

    6. since kickers are mentioning movie moments: I thought the painted, streaming-color end credits at the close of Ridley Scott’s ‘Robin Hood’ were visually stunning.

    7. my writer-friend took me up on guest-room offer for SCBWI summer conference (looking forward to her visit and those morning in-the-car and evening glass-of-Baileys conversations about writing.)

  15. Cath — ‘Pervane-Moth’; all of us planning a trip to Turkey thank you.

  16. Hi Jules,
    I was in a hurry, so I didn’t leave kicks. I can do so now, though. Little Willow, thanks for the book recommendation– my library system doesn’t have it so I’ll go further afield.

    1. I just bought REALLY GOOD tickets to the opera Tristan und Isolde, as a belated wedding anniversary present for Tony (aka “Bede”) and me. I’ve been waiting years to see this live. It’s four and a half hours of build-up culminating in the Liebestod that’s the release. It’s sexy if you know it’s supposed to be sexy. 🙂 I just read a quote by Richard Strauss that said Wagner’s music “would kill a cat and would turn rocks into scrambled eggs from fear of [its] hideous dischords.” Ba ha ha.

    2. That’s a hard act to follow, so I’ll leave it blank.

    3. Vaccines. Edward Jenner is one of my heroes, as are others who have devoted their lives to eradicating diseases.

    4. My daughter is going through an “I love mommy” phase and I am thrilled. A year ago she said, “I love daddy a little bit more than I love you.” I told her that was fine, but that I loved her as much as daddy loved her.

    5. Speaking of my daughter, she is creating alien statues out of her daddy’s 4, 6 and 20 sided dice.

    6. I finally got relative minor keys. I don’t know why I didn’t understand them earlier. (For example, C major and A minor share the same notes in their scales, just in different orders.)

    7. The sample at Trader Joe’s today was a root beer float in a little paper cup. It’s the first root beer float I’ve had in years, and I don’t expect I’ll have another one any time soon. But it was yummy!

  17. 1. Just returned (love the train so much!) from NYC, saw FELA and loved it! Two great dinners while there for those three nights as well.

    2. Afternoon game at new Yankees Stadium yesterday. They lost after having a 10-4 lead at one point but weather was beautiful, nice (and somewhat cool) breezes part of the time, delightful American activity for this special weekend. Saw lots of Fleet Week soldiers to thank while in NYC.

    3. Thank you for the introduction to LeUyen Pham this week, I was not familiar with her art…wow, I have promptly ordered Douglas Wood’s AUNT MARY’S ROSE! And it is always a special “kick” to have a visit with Carin Berger!

    4. Finished BAMBOO PEOPLE by Mitali Perkins, to be released in July. Very sobering story of young men and their families on either side of conflict in Burma. Guest blog by Mitali on Rasco from RIF on Monday about this book.

    5. A successful RIF Board meeting, Gala and honoring of our Volunteers of the Year. http://www.rascofromrif.org/?p=10341 As always, glad though to have it behind us!

    6. A video arrived showing grandson William is walking – daughter told me to bring some of those tennis shoes with wheels embedded when I next arrive to babysit.

    7. Tickets arrived for a special vacation in late June, more on that another day!

    Have a great remainder of the holiday weekend and a fine week ahead – Happy Reading!

    Rasco from RIF

  18. Cath, happy birthday to your son! And what a good sport you are about the award. Sorry you all didn’t get it. And sleeping in is always a kick for me. Sunday, kicks-day, is actually my sleeping-in morning.

    Denise, happy anniversary in advance! And ooo! ooo! So exciting to hear you’re working on a new picture book. I mean, I think I knew you were, but I always like hearing about it. And I vote for the chocolate peanut butter cupcake. Bailey’s: Mmm.

    Farida, I love root beer floats. I’ll have one with you next time. Kicks #1 and #2 are unbeatable. ‘Nough said.

  19. Carol, so happy to have introduced you to LeUyen’s art. Woot! Thanks for the heads-up about Mitali’s visit, too. Looking forward to hearing about your mystery vacation….Happy reading to you, too, this week — as always.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.