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.