Gizmos, Gadgets, and Guitars: The Story of Leo Fender

by Michael Mahin (Author) Steven Salerno (Illustrator)

Gizmos, Gadgets, and Guitars: The Story of Leo Fender
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
The picture book biography of ingenious American inventor Leo Fender, creator of the world's most iconic Fender electric guitars. For readers who love Iggy Peck, Architect. Leo Fender loved to thinker and tinker and take things apart and put them back together again. When he lost an eye in a childhood accident, he refused to think of himself as broken. With a new pair of magnifying glasses, Leo got back to doing what he loved, fixing machines big and small--even broken instruments.His inventions--which included the Telecaster and the Stratocaster--would inspire the rock 'n' roll generation and go on to amplify the talents of legendary guitarists Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Bonnie Raitt, among others. Fender's brilliant engineering vision connected science and art forever. Christy Ottaviano Books

Kirkus Reviews

An engaging mix of biography, social-emotional skills, the development of a musical instrument, and the STEM process.

School Library Journal

Gr 2-5--Mahin and Salerno present the life of Leo Fender, the fix-it man who revolutionized the solid-body guitar and built an empire of affordable musical equipment. Leo's story begins in the early 20th century on his family farm, where he explored his love of building and fixing machinery. After straying from a traditional career path during the Depression, he opened a repair shop where he not only fixed instruments but built them. From musicians' feedback (and their desire for less feedback when playing amplified hollow bodies), he developed what is now the standard in rock music: the solid-body electric guitar. This wasn't without trial and error, and in his perseverance Fender clearly demonstrated STEAM habits of mind. This biography is well researched and masterfully told. Children will enjoy reading about Fender's unusual journey, especially with the clever tidbits, peculiar vocabulary, and subtle alliteration that make Mahin a fantastic storyteller. Salerno's classic Americana illustrations in crayons, ink, gouache, and pastel bring to mind illustrative versions of Norman Rockwell stills, with postures that show as much as the facial expressions. Leo is white, with a mop of curly brown hair and round glasses. Inner workings of the instruments and machinery are finely detailed, and blueprint drawings make up the endpapers. VERDICT While Fender may not be a household name, his story will inspire future musicians and inventors. Recommended for children's biography collections, especially those seeking to incorporate the arts into STEAM. Compare with Kim Tomsic's Guitar Genius, the story of Fender's contemporary, Les Paul.--Clara Hendricks, Cambridge P.L., MA

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

This engrossing biography follows Leo Fender (1909-1991), who loves tinkering so much that he runs a radio repair business in high school and, following the loss of his accountant job during the Great Depression, establishes an electronics repair shop in California. Discovering that the newly invented electric guitars are "easy to break and hard to fix," Fender decides to make his own and, though he's not a musician, invents the iconic solid-body electric guitar. Mahin employs repetition, alliteration, and wordplay: "Western swing bands had cowboyed their way across the country and taken over the Los Angeles area." Salerno's multimedia illustrations, arranged and colored digitally, have a detailed, appealingly sketched vintage aesthetic. Young inventors in particular will find this well-paced account absorbing, though anyone with passions to pursue will find Fender's mettle inspiring. Back matter includes an author's note with additional biographical information, a bibliography, suggestions for further reading, and a glossary. Ages 5-9. (Aug.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Michael Mahin

Michael Mahin is the author of many award-winning picture book biographies, including Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters, which was an NPR Best Book of the Year, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book, and a Parents' Choice Gold Award; as well as When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana, recipient of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor and Robert F. Sibert Honor, among others. He lives in San Diego, California.

Steven Salerno is the author-illustrator of many picture books, including Coco the Carrot and Tim's Goodbye, and has illustrated numerous other books, including Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented; The Fantastic Ferris Wheel: The Story of Inventor George Ferris and The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton. Originally from Vermont, he is a graduate of Parsons School of Design and lives in New York City.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 20, 2021

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