This riveting nonfiction picture book biography explores both the failures and successes of self-taught engineer Emma Lilian Todd as she tackles one of the greatest challenges of the early 1900s: designing an airplane.
Emma Lilian Todd's mind was always soaring--she loved to solve problems. Lilian tinkered and fiddled with all sorts of objects, turning dreams into useful inventions. As a child, she took apart and reassembled clocks to figure out how they worked. As an adult, typing up patents at the U.S. Patent Office, Lilian built the inventions in her mind, including many designs for flying machines. However, they all seemed too impractical. Lilian knew she could design one that worked. She took inspiration from both nature and her many failures, driving herself to perfect the design that would eventually successfully fly. Illustrator Tracy Subisak's art brings to life author Kirsten W. Larson's story of this little-known but important engineer.
"To Emma Lilian Todd, problems were like gusts of wind: they set her mind soaring." Persistence in the face of repeated failures is a recurring theme in this book about Todd, a little-known pioneer in early-20th-century aviation design. Todd's childhood love of tinkering "She took apart a clock.... She put the pieces back together this way. No tick. She put the pieces back that way. No tock" serves her well in her adult quest to design a working airplane. (Todd is quoted: "There is no work so discouraging, so exasperating, so delightful, so mean, so difficult, so exhilarating as building aeroplanes.") Larson's author's note mentions that "many of Lilian Todd's ideas don't survive in modern airplanes." Todd's plucky perseverance appeals, and Subisak's cheerily cluttered loose-lined illustrations conjure a world of patent diagrams, dreams, experimental machines, and grit. An author's note includes photographs and supplemental information. Ages 7 10.