Cyrus Field’s Big Dream: The Daring Effort to Lay the First Transatlantic Telegraph Cable – Mary Morton Cowan


 Cyrus Field’s Big Dream: The Daring Effort to Lay the First Transatlantic Telegraph Cable – Mary Morton Cowan, Calkins Creek; (9781629795560), 2018

Format: hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: nonfiction

What did you like about the book? The first transatlantic cable was laid at great personal and financial sacrifice of one particular man: Cyrus Field. Prior to this, the longest cable in existence was only 100 miles, but Field’s cable would have to be over 2000 miles long and at the bottom of the ocean! This incredible feat of human ingenuity despite significant, repeated obstacles is the subject of this dense historical nonfiction book. Field believed the cable could keep the peace and improve trade relations between countries. It took as long as two weeks for messages to travel from Europe to America prior to the cable being successfully laid in 1866; after the cable, messages could be transmitted in mere minutes. Field sacrificed his own personal fortune, countless months with his large family, as well as his health to make his dream of instant communication come to fruition. Much of the book is dedicated to painstakingly recording the many attempts and failures to lay the cable over a period of thirteen years. Toward the end of the book, the Civil War highlights further the value and importance of a transatlantic cable to avoid misunderstandings and better keep the peace between nations. For example, during the war, Europe could not learn of the outcome of various battles for one to two weeks after their conclusion! In all, this is an excellent work of nonfiction for youth with multiple paintings, photographs and images of primary sources. Each chapter begins with a relevant quote from Cyrus Field that sets the stage for the information to come. Cowan draws on primary sources such as letters, diaries and newspapers, as well as Field’s daughter’s biography of her famous father. Includes a timeline, selected biography, index and a table of contents. This book is sure to ignite the imagination of readers to the power of perseverance and the value of dreaming big.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Students who are history buffs may like this book.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  The text is dense and detailed, which may deter some readers.

Who should buy this book? Large middle and high school libraries should make space for this in their collection, but it isn’t a necessary purchase.

Where would you shelve it? nonfiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA

Date reviewed: January 15, 2019

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