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Children's Fiction General

Franz's Phantasmagorical Machine

by (author) Beth Anderson

illustrated by Caroline Hamel

Kids Can Press
Initial publish date
May 2022
General, New Experience, Science & Technology
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 5 to 8
  • Grade: k to 3
  • Reading age: 5 to 8


For every child who longs to make the most amazing thing, here's a delightful picture book biography of a determined self-taught inventor who never stops following the call to imagine, discover, create.

From the time he is a small boy, Franz is curious about machines and how they work. He wants to try to build his own. Even though he's needed to work on the family farm, and later marries and has a family of his own, Franz never gives up on his dream. He learns and tries and tests his ideas all on his own. And though many people don't understand or appreciate Franz's work, when his fantastic, complex creation is completed at long last, he finally finds an audience that recognizes his genius.

Beth Anderson's uplifting picture book biography offers an engaging look at the inspiring life of Franz Gsellmann, an inventor from rural Austria who, with no formal artistic or engineering training, built an elaborate, intricate machine called the Weltmaschine (World Machine). The well-told story extols the joy of curiosity and inventing for inventing's sake, and explores the concept of mechanical-kinetic sculptures, in which art and science intersect. Whimsical illustrations by Caroline Hamel help bring the subject to life. Supporting backmatter includes an author's note, resources, a biography of Franz, an explanation of the machine, a search-and-find activity and questions to get children thinking about their own ideas that could lead to fun classroom activities. This book has strong STEAM curriculum links, particularly in technology and structures, and valuable character education lessons in courage, perseverance and resilience.

About the authors

Beth Anderson is a former educator and the author of An Inconvenient Alphabet, Lizzie Demands a Seat! and several other books for children. When she's not writing, she might be weaving, gardening, exploring nature or playing with her grandkids. Born and raised in Illinois, she now lives near the mountains in Colorado.

Beth Anderson's profile page

Caroline Hamel worked in graphic design and advertising before creating a travel diary that sparked a love for illustration. She has illustrated several books for French-language publishers and now works full time as an illustrator and designer from her home in Montreal, Quebec.

Caroline Hamel's profile page

Editorial Reviews

A thought-provoking and stimulating historical episode.—Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Other titles by Caroline Hamel