Young Thomas Edison Essay - Critical Context

Sterling North

Critical Context

North’s Young Thomas Edison is one of a series of personal and collective biographies published during the 1950’s and 1960’s by the Houghton Mifflin Company. This book, and the entire series, was designed to present great individuals and world events with historical accuracy and clarity to young readers. North’s book has succeeded in this respect, for it thoroughly describes the major events and contributions of Edison’s life in an informative and entertaining fashion.

In the author’s note at the book’s end, North mentions that his desire in writing the book was to bring Edison “back to life” and to describe “his complex humanity.” His book is accurate and effective in its presentation of Edison’s life. North extensively researched Edison’s life, with the assistance of the various Edison museums. The book could perhaps have been more effective if it had elaborated on the lives of certain individuals, such as Edison’s second wife, Mina Miller. Still, the book more than adequately addresses its primary focus.

North’s biography should be considered a classic of juvenile literature, because it presents its subject in a style that is unique to the biographical series published in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s by several publishers. Numerous outstanding juvenile writers, including North, appeared during this period. Their writing was both factual and entertaining. These works stressed the positive contributions of their characters and were not opinionated. North’s book is clear and useful to young and adult readers alike. It contains appropriate photographs and illustrations to describe key points and to add to the historical nature of the book.