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Library to Shine Light on Edison


Young people will have the chance to get to know Thomas Alva Edison on Saturday at Sherman Oaks Library.

Wearing a vintage suit, complete with waistcoat and watch fob, historical impersonator Peter Small will present a program on Edison.

In "Thomas Edison--Wizard of Menlo Park," Small brings to life Edison's invention of the incandescent lightbulb and the phonograph, plus his headstrong personality. The presentation is part of the library's Young Adult Summer Reading program but is geared to all ages.

To capture the audience's attention, Small helps kids complete simple science experiments and shares little-known anecdotes about Edison. For instance, Edison inadvertently invented the electric chair while trying to discredit a rival scientist's electrical innovations, Small said.

Edison also nearly invented the telephone, but Alexander Graham Bell beat him to the patent.

The best thing young people can learn from Edison, however, is his persistent attitude, Small said.

"Edison failed 7,999 times to find the proper filament for the lightbulb," Small said. "I always mention that to the kids.

"People used to ask Edison, 'How can you keep going after failing so many times?' " Small continued. "When he heard that, Edison said, 'What are you talking about? I've got lots of results. I know thousands of things that don't work.' "

Small also has given presentations on Thomas Jefferson and Harry Truman at the library, said young adult librarian Diane Gordon. "He really gets into the essence and spirit of the person as well as addressing their history," she said. "He takes the tone of voice, the body language, the mannerisms."

Small's presentation is not just a catchy gimmick, though, Gordon said. A former high school instructor, Small is foremost an educator.

"What's very unique is he takes questions from the audience," she said. "He's not just an actor. He's a teacher."

The program will begin at 2:30 p.m. at the library, 14245 Moorpark St. For more information, call (818) 981-7851.

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