The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan

The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan: Inventor, Entreprenuer, Hero is released today!!


Written by debut author Joan DiCicco and illustrated by your truly, The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan is a powerful biography of an extraordinary man who dedicated his life to improving the lives of others.

Appropriate for ages 7 -10 and Grade 2 -5, this is a wonderful picture book to share with children for STEM lessons as well as to educate students about famous black inventors and US history.

A year ago today, I also started my month-long art residency at Air Serenbe where I spent the majority of my time illustrating this book. It was a rewarding experience with highs and lows, and this short documentary captures it all. And I cannot express how much I appreciate Serenbe, Scholastic, Lee & Low, and Blake, the videographer, for giving me these unique opportunities I never thought I’d experienced. Thank you, all, so much.

Great Reviews for 'The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan'

The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan: Inventor, Entrepreneur, Hero, my latest illustrated picture book about the life of Garrett Morgan has received some wonderful reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and School Library Journal!


“If a man puts something to block your way,

the first time you go around it,

the second time you go over it,

and the third time you go through it.”

Living by these words made inventor and entrepreneur Garrett Morgan unstoppable! Growing up in Claysvile, Kentucky, the son of freed slaves, young and curious Garrett was eager for life beyond his family’s farm. At age fourteen, he moved north to Cleveland, where his creative mind took flight amidst the city’s booming clothing-manufacturing industry.

Using his ingenuity and tenacity, Garrett overcame racial barriers and forged a career as a successufl businessman and inventor. But when a tunnel collapsed, trapping twnety men, the rescue would test both Garrett’s invention—and his courage.

Told in compelling prose by debut picture-book author Joan DiCicco and illustrated by yours truly, The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan is a powerful biography of an extraordinary man who dedicated his life to improving the lives of others.


Garrett Morgan’s story of invention, ingenuity, and steadfast determination is captured in this episodic biography of his life. Written in a third-person format, the author traces a path to Garrett’s invention of a firefighter’s safety hood, which later evolved into the gas mask. This invention saved many lives, and it is one of many that Garrett created to change the lives of people worldwide. DiCicco portrays Morgan as an intelligent, driven young man with a talent for solving problems through design. Glenn’s illustrations depict Garrett as a statuesque figure, and her artistic style and use of color offer a realistic view of America in the early 1900s. This biography will find plenty of use in intermediate grades with units on Black history, inventors, segregation, the great migration, or early American history. Media specialists, teachers, and librarians will find this book to be a good addition to their collections and STEM offerings. An appended time line features important events in Morgan’s life and many of his inventions.

Publisher’s Weekly

DiCicco’s well-researched debut picture book highlights the life of boundary-breaking African-American inventor Garrett Morgan. The son of Kentucky sharecroppers, Morgan heads north at 14, getting work as a handyman, opening a sewing machine repair shop—and, alongside his wife, “manufacturing affordable clothing for Cleveland’s growing black middle class”—inventing a traffic signal, and garnering a patent for the Safety Hood, a helmet that was developed into gas masks before WWI. Focusing primarily on the Safety Hood and a daring rescue that it facilitated, this biography recalls Morgan’s experience with fires as inspiration for the invention. Glenn’s digital illustrations, saturated in chalky sepias and browns, exude a diaphanous, smoky ambiance. An extensive timeline and bibliography wrap up this riveting tale of a man who fought against stacked odds to accomplish what he put his mind to.

Kirkus Reviews

An accessible first look at a celebrated inventor in the black community. Garrett Morgan has been credited with the invention of the traffic light but is often overlooked in favor of other famous black innovators, such as George Washington Carver and Charles R. Drew. Debut picture-book author DiCicco gives young readers a solid overview of Garrett Morgan's wide-ranging versatility. The account of his humble beginnings as part of a Kentucky sharecropping family highlights how his circumstances caused him to solve problems creatively. When he left for the North, he advanced his education with private tutoring. DiCicco uses affirmative vocabulary like "unstoppable" and "brave" to describe his resilience and determination in life—an attitude that led to his decision to marry a white woman before interracial marriages were federally legal. The bulk of the book is devoted to his invention of a piece of safety apparatus that ensured a supply of fresh air to firefighters before turning to the invention of the traffic light. The racism that he encountered along the way is not soft-pedaled. A detailed timeline and bibliography steer readers to resources that will enable them to further explore his life. Glenn supplies earth-toned paintings that give a sense of the period and evoke mid-20th-century Disney cartoons. A stirring tribute to black excellence.

School Library Journal

The son of freed slaves, witness the life of a man who saved lives with his inventions and proved that when it came to obstacles you can always find a way to get around, over, or through them. This is one of those cases where it’s difficult to separate my delight at discovering this historical hero from the presentation of his life. That said, I really found the text and the images of this book to be hugely compelling. DiCicco walks this nice balance between Garrett’s hardships and the sheer coolness of his solutions to problems. You get the distinct impression that the man invented a lot more than is mentioned here. Might be worth checking out that Bibliography. Meanwhile, Glenn’s art is realistic without being (how can I put this?) boring. Sorry, but realistic art is too often dull in picture book bios. This serves the story well and keeps your interest from start to finish. Yep. I’m a fan.

Not Quite Snow White

Happy Book Birthday to Not Quite Snow White!


Written by debut author, Ashley Franklin, Not Quite Snow White tells the story about Tameika, a talented young girl who belongs on the stage. She has all of the right stuff to play the part, but not everyone at her school thinks she’s quite right for the lead role in her school musical.

It’s an inspirational picture book that shares the importance of self-confidence and self-acceptance while taking an earnest look at what happens when that confidence is shaken or lost. And little Tameika, the bright and genial character that she is, will encourage little readers to be accepting of others as well as ourselves.

Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

“Tameika is a die-hard song-and-dance gal, and the world (including her own backyard) is her stage. Now, having played a cucumber, a space cowgirl, a dinosaur, and a mermaid, she’s going to audition for the biggest school play role yet: the lead in the musical Snow White. But when she overhears her peers gossiping (“She’s too tall.” “She’s much too chubby.” “And she’s too brown.”), Tameika’s strong will wavers. “Maybe she was wrong for wanting to be this princess,” debut author Franklin writes. Enter Tameika’s parents, who give her the encouragement she needs (“You’re just enough of all the right stuff”) to knock ’em dead at the audition. With earnestness and plenty of heart (and offering subtle assurances throughout that Tameika is no prima donna), the creators adroitly make the girl’s problem feel less overwhelming, smartly emphasizing her passion and empowerment. Digital illustrations by Glenn (Mommy’s Khimar) are forthright in portraying Tameika’s talent, ambition, and the joy both bring her. It’s refreshing to see female confidence portrayed without a single “aw, shucks” moment, and important to be reminded that there’s no one right way to be a princess.”

Kirkus Starred Review

“A little black girl hold true to her dream that on the theater stage you can be whatever you want—even Snow White. Tameika is a bubbly, outgoing singer and dancer who loves the stage. She has played various roles, such as a cucumber, a space cowgirl, and a dinosaur, but never a princess. This charming tale tackles the complex subject of biases around race and body image when Tameika overhears her classmates’ whispers: “She can’t be Snow White,”; “She’s much too chubby"“; “And she’s too brown.” Tameika goes on a journey of self-acceptance as she grapples with her feelings aobut wanting to be a princess. Glenn’s playful, animation-inspred digital art will enchant readers as it immerses them in Tameika’s vivid imagination. New fans may seek out her previous work in Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow’s “Mommy’s Khimar” (2018) and Michelle Meadows’ “Brave Ballerina” (2019.) The vibrant colors and active compositions enhance the story, reflecting Tameika’s changing emotions and her interactions with her parents, whose positive affirmations help give Tameika the courage and self-love to remember how much joy she gets from performing. For kids who like to imagine themselves being anything they want to be, it is reassuring to be reminded that it’s not exterior looks that matter but the princess within. A fell-good picture book and a great reminder that classic princess roles can be reimagined to embrace inclusion, diversity, and body positivity.”