Cyrus Field's Big Dream cover PRAISE FOR CYRUS FIELD'S BIG DREAM
Best STEM Book symbol
 a 2019 Best STEM Book, awarded by the National Science Teaching Association, in cooperation with the Children's Book Council
a Junior Library Guild Selection Junior Library Guild medallion
Kirkus Reviews: "The relentless persistence of one man resulted in one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century and the transformation of international communication. … Making extensive use of primary sources, Cowan admiringly chronicles how… Field endured delays and failed attempts, millions of dollars lost, suspected sabotage, technological problems, and public accusations of fraud and treason. Her well-paced, vivid account makes for a read that is at times gripping. … An inspiring portrait of a man with a dream and his steadfast determination to achieve it." Read the complete review.
Booklist: "Long before email and texting, Cyrus Field understood the value of instant communication. When the paper merchant tycoon learned in 1854 about an opportunity to invest in the first transatlantic telegraph cable, which would reduce message delivery between Europe and North America from weeks to minutes, he couldn’t resist. This detailed biography, filled with archival reproductions, chronicles Field’s rise from a penniless paper mill worker to one of the richest men in New York City. An interesting chapter on his hiatus from his paper company describes an adventure through South America with then budding artist Frederic Church. The bulk of the text focuses on Field’s 12-year endeavor to create a telegraph company, acquire investors, and procure 2,000 miles of cable, and the tension-filled methods of laying it. Cowan relates the scientific and historical events that shaped the process. While the topic seems most applicable to STEM readers, there is much for young entrepreneurs to learn. The project failed multiple times, but Field’s incessant determination finally succeeded with a telegraph from Queen Victoria to President Andrew Johnson." — Angela Leeper
KidsReads: Mary Morton Cowan brilliantly captures Cyrus's life and his steadfast determination to achieve his dream. Read the complete review.
ConnieWooldridge.com: "Cyrus Field didn’t know the first thing about telegraphs when he retired from running a successful paper mill in 1853. But when his “big dream” took hold, there was no stopping him. He made three attempts to lay a cable across the Atlantic (watching borrowed funds disappear and the cheers of crowds turn into taunts) before a fourth succeeded. Through photos, diagrams, and clear explanations, the author describes the complicated business of securing thousands of miles of cable, transferring it onto ships, and reeling it out onto the ocean floor without snapping it. All the while, the ability to transmit a signal – from one end of the cable to the other – had to be maintained. Cowan uses the twisting and straining of the cable to mirror the twists of history and politics, and the almost unbearable strain on Field himself. Added to the rousing good story is the copious back matter (author’s note, timeline, source notes, selected bibliography, and a list of additional books, videos, and websites to consult for further information). This is nonfiction for young adult readers at its best."
School Library Connection: "Field's...diligence and perseverance shine brightly, and these attributes make this story a winner. (His) uncanny ability to continually turn failure around and his constant quest for knowledge teach readers a valuable lesson about not giving up. Hand this book to your kids who have big dreams so they can experience first-hand the endless possibilities of making those dreams come true."
Washington Post (one of 4 books reviewed in an article titled, "Stories About Failure Show That It's Just a Pit Stop to Success," by Abby McGanney Nolan): "In 1853, it took at least a week to relay a message between the United States and Europe because they had to be transported on ships over the Atlantic Ocean. A young entrepreneur named Cyrus Field tried to reduce that transmission time to just minutes by laying a long tube at the bottom of the ocean between Ireland and Newfoundland, the eastern tip of North America. In this well-written and illustrated book, Cowan describes the challenges Field had to overcome — seasickness, engineering mistakes, destructive storms, financial pressures and even the Civil War — to achieve this major communications breakthrough. Field did not accept failure as an end result; he persisted until the job was complete and two continents were connected."
San Francisco Book Review: Cyrus Field was a dreamer of very big dreams. He was willing to take on tough tasks and build enterprises that would better his family, his community, and, ultimately, the world. By the mid-1800s, when only in his early 30s, Cyrus retired from running a successful paper mill and was looking for his next big thing. His brother introduced him to a man seeking backing for a telegraph venture stringing cables across parts of Canada. This was the first step in a very long journey for Cyrus, a journey with plenty of disappointment, failure, and even heartbreak but one that spotlighted the resilience and tenacity it takes to change history.
     Mary Morton Cowan has found a fascinating subject for her latest book, one youngsters will be drawn to by her choice of a bigger-than-life character, excellent storytelling, and fine research. Her writing is lively and succinct and will keep her audience turning pages as she takes her readers to a very different time and place. This great story that comes with tremendous back-matter (timeline, source notes, bibliography, and resources for further study) and that shows how really good non-fiction should be done. This is a winner!    Rosi Hollinbeck, reviewer.
VOYA: “Cowan offers a detailed look at the great fortitude of an American pioneer who had an audacious vision. Field’s story is filled with examples of the kind of determination that is always beneficial for teens to experience in nonfiction…(and) provides insight about events that many teens do not know about, making this a good addition for library collections serving young adults.”
The Fairview Review: "anyone reading this book will be convinced of [Cyrus's] determination to accomplish his goal. ... Written for grades 5-9, this is a detailed biography and a story of technology woven together to make a fascinating true story." posted by Susanne Costner. Read the complete review
Youth Services Book Review: 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. 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. ... 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.
Stacked Books: "Mary Morton Cowan brilliantly captures Cyrus’s life and his steadfast determination to achieve his dream."
A Book and a Hug: In this nonfiction middle-grade title, award-winning author Mary Morton Cowan explores the extraordinary achievement of Cyrus Field and one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century: laying a transatlantic telegraph cable to create instant communication between two continents.
Oregon Coast Youth Book Preview Center: Almost one and a half centuries before the world-wide popularity of the internet, messages from one continent to another had to be relayed by ship, a time-consuming process. In the middle of the 19th century, a wealthy New Yorker met a visionary Englishman who convinced the businessman to invest in his dream of a telegraph cable laid on the ocean floor. Part of the book describes Field’s childhood and incessant drive during his adulthood; the remainder details continuing failures of the project as workers and leaders of the attempt made one mistake after another until success after ten years. Blue-tinged sepia diagrams, paintings, and vintage photographs add to the information presenting in an inviting layout. ... The illustrations and accessible writing make the book an inviting read.
Redeemed Reader: ...anyone fascinated with how things work will be both intrigued and inspired by this American success story. Read the entire review.
S. Costner, Amazon customer:     As the author mentions in the epilogue, "Telegraph cables played an important role in world communication for more than a century. Eventually, radio, telephone cables, satellites, fiber-optic cables, and wireless networks made telegraph cables obsolete." (p.188) It may be very hard for readers today to understand Cyrus Field's determination to lay the first transatlantic telegraph cable, or how many others he was able to convince of the necessity - and to invest large sums of money to make it happen. But anyone reading this book will be convinced of his determination to accomplish his goal.
    The book presents all the events in chronological order, beginning with the first meeting where Field heard about the possibility and covering the twelve years it took to successfully connect the United States with Europe with a telegraph cable. The various investors, politicians, and scientists and the roles they played are also discussed, but Cyrus is the main character in this drama. Details of his childhood, family, and other business ventures are woven into the background to complete the portrait of this determined man.
    Illustrations show the ships and equipment used, reproductions of telegrams, photos from the time period, even diagrams of the ship's layout. There are numerous quotes from Cyrus and contemporaries, newspaper and magazine coverage, and even songs written about the attempts. Back matter includes an author's note, source notes, timeline, index, connections to make (books videos, and websites on the topic), and a selected bibliography.
    Written for grades 5-9, this is a detailed biography and a story of technology woven together to make a fascinating true story.
[Back to Home Page]   [Back to Cyrus Field's Big Dream]   [Back to Books]