"Alfred named his invention after the Greek word dynamis, which means power. But to the world, Alfred Nobel had invented something called dynamite." - Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize by Kathy-Jo Wargin, illustrated by Zachary Pullen
Today, on the first anniversary last year's historic election, I watched the live TV coverage of President Obama as he spoke to students, teachers and parents at the Wright Middle School here in Wisconsin. He talked about his new educational agenda and the Race to the Top grants. In his speech he remarked that, "The right education is a prerequisite to success. It is the currency of our knowledge economy. And yet, we continue to trail other countries in a number of critical areas. The United States, a nation that has always led the way in innovation, is now being outpaced in math and science education." Education has become America's newest mission.
I just had the chance to read an outstanding book about an important innovator named Alfred Nobel, the man responsible for founding the Nobel Prizes. No surprise here, Nobel himself had the privilege of a first rate, private education and was born into a family of engineers. And as a scientist and inventor, he understood the importance of acknowledging leaders in scientific fields in addition to awards in literature and peace. Next month President Obama will travel to Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.
Even though almost everyone has heard about the Nobel prizes not many know the facts of Alfred Nobel's life. Kathy-Jo Wargin brings this scientific and entrepreneurial genius to life Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize, a story about Nobel's life and work. The book does not detail Nobel's early life growing up in Sweden and Russia but focuses on his work with nitroglycerin and invention of the blasting cap and his subsequent invention of dynamite, his greatest discovery. Besides his interest in science, he also loved literature, wrote poetry and was involved in social and peace-related issues. However, not all viewed his accomplishments in a positive light. Years before his actual death, a premature obituary was written that accused him of becoming wealthy through inventions that had killed and injured others. Some sources, including Wargin's book speculate that this obituary spurred Nobel into leaving a more positive legacy behind, the Nobel prizes. In the back of the book is a list of all the individuals that have won the Nobel Peace Prize beginning in 1901 and ending with 2008 recipient Martti Ahtisaari.
This picture book provides a brief but interesting and well-illustrated account of Alfred Nobel's adult life. I never realized that the man that invented dynamite was also the man behind the Nobel Prizes for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace. While I wish that Wargin had chosen to discuss Nobel's youth, the information presented about his inventions and scientific discoveries fascinated me. It also surprised me that Nobel's own brother died in an explosion in one of his workshops researching nitroglycerin. Zachary Pullen's action filled illustrations show the bearded Nobel at various points in his busy life and a couple illustrations show rough schematics of two of Nobel's inventions, the blasting cap and dynamite. Maybe those children that read the book will be inspired to achieve great things in their own lives. Wargin certainly hopes so. In her inscription in the beginning of the book, she writes, "To all children who carry the vision, the dream, and the willpower to make our world smarter, healthier, safer, and a more peaceful place to live for all people."
Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize by Kathy-Jo Wargin, illustrated by Zachary Pullen. Sleeping Bear Press (January 2009); 32 pages; ISBN 9781585362813
Book Source: Review copy provided for free by publisher (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)
Kathy-Jo Wargin - Author Website
Zachary Pullen - Illustrator Website
Sleeping Bear Press Alfred Nobel Teacher's Guide
The Official Web Site of the Nobel Foundation http://nobelprize.org/
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