Guitar Genius

By Kim Tomsic • Illustrated by Brett Helquist

How Les Paul Engineered the Solid-Body Electric Guitar and Rocked the World

"Les Paul was an innovator and musical force for the ages-he changed the world in a very real way. His story is a lesson from which kids of all ages can derive inspiration." —Billy Gibbons, lead guitarist of ZZ Top

This is the story of how Les Paul created the world’s first solid-body electric guitar, countless other inventions that changed modern music, and one truly epic career in rock and roll.

How to make a microphone? A broomstick, a cinderblock, a telephone and a radio. How to make an electric guitar? A record player’s arm, a speaker and some tape. How to make a legendary inventor? A few tools, a lot of curiosity, and an endless faith in what’s possible.  

A curious kid who tinkered with everything electronic, young Lester Polsfuss had a mechanical mind and love for music. Once told by a teacher he had no talent, he was encouraged by his mother to pursue his passions. He saved his money to buy a guitar. He taught himself to play. What he didn’t have, he made: a recording device, a harmonica holder, a speaker system. While his performing career flourished and took him from Waukesha, Wisconsin all the way to the White House, he never stopped inventing. In 1941, at the age of 26, he created the instrument that could play the sounds he wanted to make: the solid body electric guitar. 

Featuring richly detailed, dynamic illustrations by Brett Helquist, this unforgettable biography and story of perseverance will resonate with inventive readers young and old.

Kim Tomsic lives in Boulder, Colorado, with her husband and dogs. This is her first picture book.

Brett Helquist is the New York Times bestselling illustrator of many books, including A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

See below for cover images, interior spreads and a full PDF of the book.  To request a review copy or interview with the creators, please contact Lara Starr at


Lara Starr Senior Publicist
Guitar Genius
How Les Paul Engineered the Solid-Body Electric Guitar and Rocked the World

By Kim Tomsic
Illustrated by Brett Helquist
April 2019

Ages 5-8
56 pages
About Chronicle Books Children's Books


Chronicle Books, one of the most admired and respected publishing companies in the U.S., was founded in 1967 and over the years has developed a reputation for award-winning, innovative books.  Recognized as one as the fifty best small companies to work for in the U.S. (and the only independent publisher to receive this award), the company continues to challenge conventional publishing wisdom, setting trends in both subject and format, maintaining a list that includes much admired illustrated books and gift products in design, art, architecture, photography, food, lifestyle, pop culture, and acclaimed children’s titles.  Chronicle Books' objective is to create and distribute exceptional publishing that is instantly recognizable for its spirit and creativity. Our collaborations spark the passions of adults and children worldwide, encouraging them to explore, connect, and see things differently. For more information about Chronicle Books visit

Chronicle Books Children's Books
Lara Starr, Senior Publicist