Franz’s Phantasmagorical Machine

Franz’s Phantasmagorical Machine

Illustrated by Caroline Hamel

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 as he tries and tests his ideas 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 activities classroom activities. This book has strong STEAM curriculum links, particularly in technology and structures, and valuable character education lessons in courage, perseverance and resilience.

Educator Guide 

Educator Supplement—Assembling the Pieces: Connecting STEM and Language Arts  (appeared on Patricia Newman’s blog LitLinks)


Hardcover | $18.99
Published by Kids Can Press
32 Pages | 5-8 years, K-3 | ISBN 9781525303258

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Based on a true story, this account of one man’s pursuit will leave readers pondering the nature of inventions—does a creation need a clear purpose? Delicately detailed artwork featuring a deliberately discordant color scheme gives this quirky narrative a slightly surreal feel…A thought-provoking and stimulating historical episode.  ~Kirkus

…an exceptional picture book about an artistic inventor determined to create a “phantasmagorical machine”… This picture book will encourage young readers to think about creativity, imagination, machines, building, resilience, and perseverance. It has strong connections to the STEAM curriculum. The book has a powerful message for curious young minds. Follow your dreams. Ask questions… Highly Recommended  ~CM: Canadian Review of Materials

…there is no question throughout that its subject is making something beautiful for the world—on his own terms—in this love letter to both unquenchable curiosity and outsider art.  ~Publishers Weekly

…This tale of perseverance will do a great job of fostering experimentation and creativity, especially for STEAM projects and kinetic and found-art lessons.   ~Booklist


Blog Articles and Interviews


Writing and Illustrating, Kathy Temean’s Blog – the book journey

Unpacking the Power of Picture Books BOOK REVIEW and INTERVIEW by Sandy Brehl

The Picture Book Buzz – blog interview by Maria Marshall

Picture Book Builders blog interview with Jill Esbaum

Word Choice—Multitasking at Its Best! guest craft post on GROG blog

LitLinks: How to integrate STEM and writing with a word bank on Patricia Newman’s blog