They Changed the World: Edison-Tesla-Bell

They Changed the World: Edison-Tesla-BellThey Changed the World: Edison-Tesla-Bell
Written by: Lewis Helfand
Illustrated by: Naresh Kumar
Publisher: Campfire
Format: Softcover, 10 x 6.5, 96 pages, Full Color, $12.99
ISBN: 978-9-38074-187-1

Honestly, biographies are sometimes not my first choice of reading material. Since I was a child I simply felt like they were just too overloaded with facts, figures, dates, names, situations, conflicts, meetings, coincidences, disagreements, and the list goes on. In short, I felt overwhelmed by biographies.

That is NOT the case with Campfire's new biographical graphic novel entitled They Changed the World: Edison, Tesla, Bell. Admittedly, I opened the first page thinking, Um. Ok. I haven't reviewed a biography in awhile. I guess so. Also admittedly, I was completely wrong in my forethoughts about this specific biography. I loved it! And I learned so much information about Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Nikola Tesla that I never, ever learned in school, or, for that matter, any other biography about them. From one page to the next page this graphic novel does not read like a traditional biography. It reads more like a novella about each individual and his amazing determination and courage to pursue the greatest inventions of his day. And each of those days were pretty much shared, for all three men grew up, matured and invented during the very same time period in history. While Edison saw Bell and Tesla as competitors out to steal his brilliant ideas, Bell and Tesla were more concerned with simply improving everyday life with their ideas. In other words, being from a state Edison once called home my schema was to see him as an American icon; after learning more about the man, however, I can now only respect his contributions.  

Hmmm . . . I guess you'll just have to read this well-written and thoughtfully illustrated graphic novel to form your own opinions on each of these fascinating men because I guarantee you'll not only be engaged, but also surprised.

Elements of Story

Plot: The lives and inventions of Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Nikola Tesla

Key Characters: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla

Themes: Individuality, Family, Dedication, Ideas and Inventions, Perseverance

Recommended Common Core Standards

Key Ideas and Details
1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
Lesson Plan

Directions: Below students will find an information bank. Below the information bank students will next find a three-column list with each inventor's name above one of the columns.  

As students read this graphic novel ask them to locate the details found in the information bank and place each of those details under the correct inventor to which it belongs. 

Helped with a flour mill invention as a child

Worked on a train as teenager

Was a perfectionist piano player

2 of his brothers died of tuberculosis

Jumped off a barn trying to fly as a child

His father hid candles to try to stop him from reading at nighttime

His mother had significant hearing loss

Saved a young boy's life as a teenager (from getting hit by a train)

As a child asked too many questions and his teachers thought him unintelligent

So smart his teachers thought he was cheating

Attended the Chicago World Fair

Greatly intrigued by Niagra Falls

Invented electric vote recorder

His daughter often brought him a bagged lunch while he worked

Contracted Cholera and was bedridden for nine months

Invented the first early motion picture camera

Worked on and invented the safe use of alternating electric currents

Taught deaf children and married a deaf woman

Invented electric light bulb

Invented the telephone


Thomas Edison

Alexander Graham Bell

Nikola Tesla



































Dr. Katie Monnin is an Associate Professor of Literacy at the University of North Florida.  Besides the joy that comes with reading comic books and graphic novels, Dr. Monnin enjoys a Peter Pan-ish life of researching and writing her own books about teaching comics, graphic novels, and cartoons: Teaching Graphic Novels (2010), Teaching Early Reader Comics and Graphic Novels (2011), Using Content-Area Graphic Texts for Learning (2012), Teaching Reading Comprehension with Graphic Texts (2013), and Get Animated! Teaching 21st Century Early Reader and Young Adult Cartoons in Language Arts (2013); Teaching New Literacies in Elementary Language Arts (in press, 2014). When she is not writing (or sitting around wondering how she ended up making an awesome career out of studying comics and graphic novels), Dr. Monnin spends her time with her two wiener dogs, Sam and Max.