Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

by Kathryn Gibbs Davis (Author) Gilbert Ford (Illustrator)

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Capturing an engineer's creative vision and mind for detail, this fully illustrated picture book biography sheds light on how the American inventor George Ferris defied gravity and seemingly impossible odds to invent the world's most iconic amusement park attraction, the Ferris wheel.

A fun, fact-filled text by Kathryn Gibbs Davis combines with Gilbert Ford's dazzling full-color illustrations to transport readers to the 1893 World's Fair, where George Ferris and his big, wonderful wheel lifted passengers to the skies for the first time.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 3--It's almost time for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and American architects are hoping to design a star attraction to rival the French Eiffel Tower. Mechanical engineer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. has a daring idea: a huge, round, moving structure made from steel, a new metal unrivaled in both lightness and strength. After overcoming obstacles ranging from mockery to quicksand, Ferris and his team finally complete their wheel, which delights fairgoers and goes on to become a staple of fairgrounds around the world. Librarians familiar with Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City (Random, 2002) already know this story, but the focus here is less on the Chicago World's Fair and more on the process involved in building a mechanical marvel. Details such as why support structures were necessary and how tension wheels work will engage emerging engineers, while those with a less scientific bent can nevertheless appreciate the excitement felt by the Ferris Wheel's very first passengers. The primary story is told in an easy-to-read serif font, and secondary details are added in smaller sans-serif sections. A purple-dominated color scheme contrasts with occasional greens and yellows, although the placement of text in low-contrast areas sometimes interferes with readability. Overall, the modernist look, inherently interesting topic, and strong documentation (including quotations from primary sources) make this title a positive addition, especially those looking to enhance their nonfiction offerings in view of new Common Core standards.--Jill Ratzan, I. L. Peretz Community Jewish School, Somerset, NJ

Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

With the 1893 Chicago World's Fair on the horizon, American engineer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. won a design contest for what would become the Ferris wheel, a "structure that would dazzle and move, not just stand still like the Eiffel Tower" (the star of the previous World Fair). Despite naysayers ("It's undignified," grouses one onlooker), George and his crew plowed forward with plans for the giant, circular steel structure, unveiling the machine at the fair's opening. Davis delivers a tense and satisfying underdog story, while Ford creates a stylized 19th-century landscape, setting impressionistic backgrounds against the hard-edged geometric shapes of the wheel and other structures, colored in deep, subdued blues and violets. Direct quotations and captions explaining historical detail keep the context of the story in sharp focus. Ages 4-8. Author's agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. Illustrator's agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.)

Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

* "Davis' picture-book bio soars, inspires, and keeps (the pages) ever turning"
—Booklist, starred review

"The modernist look, inherently interesting topic, and strong documentation...make this title a positive addition."
—School Library Journal

"Kids who take ferris wheels for granted should find this history eye-opening."

"Davis's picture-book account of the Ferris Wheel construction does a first-rate job of capturing the many risks—to civic pride, financial success, and public safety—that attached to the first iteration of what most readers have already enjoyed as a local carnival attraction."

"Davis delivers a tense and satisfying underdog story, while Ford creates a stylized 19th-century landscape."
—Publishers Weekly

"[An] informative and entertaining account."
—Wall Street Journal
Kathryn Gibbs Davis

Kathryn Gibbs Davis has a gift for combining history and storytelling in a manner that relates to readers of many ages. Kathryn is an active member of the Children's Literature Network. Visit

Gilbert Ford was born into a family of photographers. Instead of taking up the camera, he moved to New York to attend the prestigious Pratt Institute. His illustrations have appeared in books, magazines, newspapers, toys, billboards, and advertisements. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. Visit

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 20, 2014
Orbis Pictus Award
Honor Book 2015 - 2015
Beehive Awards
Nominee 2016 - 2016
Keystone to Reading Book Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
Rhode Island Children's Book Awards
Nominee 2016 - 2016
Cook Prize
Honor Book 2015 - 2015

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