The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth Book Poster Image
True story about an amazing boy who thought outside the box.

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age 3+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The lessons of this book teach that asking questions, studying and thinking creatively can lead to interesting ideas.  Also, this is the biography of an inventor, Philo Farnsworth that few, if any of us, have heard of before.

Positive Messages

Being creative, hardworking, and curious can lead a person to discover and invent amazing things.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Philo is a boy filled with wonder and curiosity, but he is not just an idle daydreamer. Machines seem magical to him, and he is consumed with a desire to figure out their magic. He asks questions, reads, researches, studies...and all of that coupled with a gentle hardworking spirit leads him to make his amazing discovery.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is an inspiring biography about a boy who worked hard, and came up with the idea that led to the invention of the TV.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byharrypotterlover10 October 22, 2009
I haven't read it, but I had to do a report on this guy. He is very very interesting. Kids should defanlly read about him. There is nothing really to worry... Continue reading

What's the story?

Philo Farnsworth was a remarkably talented boy with a curious mind. From an early age he wanted to know what made things work, and he was surrounded by people who fed his sense of wonder. He worked and studied hard until one day while planting potatoes he came up with an idea that led to the invention of the television. A page at the end explains to older readers just why most people have never heard of his name.

Is it any good?

This is just the kind of story that inspires kids. And, though of an earlier time, Philo has the kind of life most kids can relate to. He is a regular kind of kid who wonders about things, goes to school, reads, and has great ideas. He has chores, responsibilities, and dreams, and  he succeeds in creating his invention, the first television. 

The topic is captivating, and the writing has the informative yet entertaining tone of a master storyteller at work. Without oversimplifying, the narrator imparts the enthusiastic spirit of the boy and passes on a few complicated ideas in an uncomplicated way. The story is meaty enough to hold any reader's interest, and the illustrations are just as inspirational.

The artwork in this book is as intriguing as the story itself. Done in acrylics and colored pencil, and overlaid with digitally created diagrams and images, the illustrations are nostalgic, imaginative, and informative. Readers will enjoy the drawings of old phonographs and radios as well as the softly edged period scenes and the golden highlights that capture the tone of this boy's amazing story.They may also enjoy trying to figure out the scientific and mathematical drawings in the various backgrounds.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about all the different TV designs, as well as the phonographs and radios depicted inside the covers and throughout the pages.  How have TVs and radios changed? Can you imagine a time without TV and electronics? What do you think that would be like?

  • What makes the TV work? What is electricity? How did planting potatoes help Philo invent the television?

  • How does a person come up with a new idea, like Philo did? Why do you think he thought of it and no one else did? Have you ever had a great idea?

  • What other inventors have you heard of? Were they like Philo in any way?

  • Families might also talk about patents and why inventors need them.  After reading the end paper, parents might talk about why most people don't know that Philo invented the TV.

Book details

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