Mr. Bell Invents the Telephone Critical Essays

Katherine B. Shippen


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In her acknowledgments, Shippen recognizes Ralph E. Mooney of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company for his assistance in gathering materials for Bell’s biography. She also credits materials from Catherine MacKenzie’s book Alexander Graham Bell: The Man Who Contracted Space (1928) and quotes from The New York Herald Tribune. Shippen’s work is thoroughly consistent with other accounts of Bell’s life and work, yet it has the clear narrative flow of fiction.

While modern students may need an explanation of tuning forks, electromagnets, and undulating currents, most unfamiliar items and ideas are explained within the narrative. For those terms that are not explained, the context provides clues that are sufficient to keep students from becoming lost or frustrated.

Most of the pen-and-ink drawings are decorative rather than informative. A half-page drawing introduces each chapter, and occasionally a full-page drawing is inserted; these are without captions but relate generally to material in each chapter. One illustration is a labeled drawing of the apparatus used at one stage of the development of the harmonic telegraph. Unfortunately, the only illustration of any of the models or parts of the telephone is an unlabeled drawing of Bell’s display at the Centennial Fair in Philadelphia.

The negative aspects of the physical, emotional, and financial price that Bell paid for his devotion to his invention are not glossed over or eliminated....

(The entire section is 615 words.)