Create, innovate, design something new–that’s what invention is all about. Invention’s foundation is imagination, coupled with resourcefulness and persistence. While an invention is typically a device, method, or process, one could argue authors also invent. The books on this list explore all types of inventive people and ideas.

Web links to additional information and activities about humor follow these reviews.


Contributor: Peg Glisson


100 Things You Should Know About Inventions

Duncan Brewer

This large-format, forty-eight-page picture book consists of 100 paragraphs about important inventions and inventive processes along with periodic anecdotes, informative and engaging sidebars, and quizzes. The inventions are organized into twenty categories, each one of which comprises a two-page spread. The categories are: early tools and toolmakers, fire-making, wheels, agriculture, catapults, metal fabrication, boats and sailing, uses of clay, exploration, weaponry, measurement of time, solar and other kinds of natural power, writing, magnification, music-making, flying, sound recording, domestic inventions, and space travel. Because five inventions are presented within each category, readers can easily comprehend the technical and thematic connections among such otherwise diverse tools as slingshots and longbows, Stonehenge and digital watches, and potters’ wheels and adobe houses. In addition to presenting basic factual information about each item, the book also briefly explains techniques or processes associated with some of them. For instance, an insert on sailing shows and discusses how to use a compass. The quizzes will encourage students to read closely, check facts, and make deductions. The illustrations are large, clear, and colorful. Although the textual information is brief, this will be a useful and appealing book for curious children who will acquire important and intriguing knowledge set in an uncommon but thought-provoking context. 2011, Mason Crest Publishers, Ages 8 to 12, $19.95. REVIEWER: Cynthia Levinson (Children’s Literature).


ISBN: 9781422219904

101 Ways to Bug Your Friends and Enemies

Lee Wardlaw

Stephen J. Wyatt–a.k.a. Sneeze because of his allergies–is a boy genius cum inventor and has just arrived home from a driving trip to California with his parents. They went on the trip so Steve could present his “Nice Alarm,” which awakens its user with two gentle taps on the shoulder instead of loud noises, to a manufacturer. Unfortunately, said manufacturer does not appear to be interested. Now he has to tell his friends he failed to sell his invention. Plus, he has to deal with bullies at the high school where he takes some classes even though he is still in middle school; and he realizes his second best friend, Hayley, makes his fingers tingle and his heart race. To make matters worse, Sneeze has arguments with his best friend Hiccup–a hypochondriac. First Hiccup accidentally kills Steve’s fish by using household cleanser and bleach on their aquarium because he could not stand the green algae slime on the glass. Then Sneeze discovers he has to take P.E. in middle school, which means he will have to give up the computer design course he had planned to take at the high school. Later, after Hiccup helps by telling his friend about an afternoon martial arts class which will count as P.E., the two argue about whether Sneeze is trying to steal Hiccup’s would-be girlfriend. But all is well that ends well. This third book in the “101 Ways to Bug…” series is funny and fresh and relates to problems all kids’ experience. 2011, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99. REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780803732629

Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids: His Life and Ideas With 21 Activities and Thought Experiments

Jerome Pohlen

Einstein was a brilliant mind, and he revolutionized science – it’s never too early to touch on his discoveries. “Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Thought Experiments” is a guide for teachers and students as Jerome Pohlen uses his expertise as a teacher to help readers know how to learn Einstein’s concepts in the classroom and around the house. With plenty of models and activity ideas, history, and full color photography all throughout, “Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids” is a must for science education collections, highly recommended. 2012, Chicago Review Press,, n/a, $16.95. REVIEWER: Midwest Book Review (Children’s Bookwatch).

ISBN: 9781613740286

All Aboard! : Elijah McCoy’s Steam Engine

Monica Kulling

Illustrated by Bill Slavin

In 1860 Elijah McCoy, son of slaves, goes to Scotland to study how to design and build engines. But back in the United States the only job he can find on a train is shoveling coal. The lively text of this second volume in the “Great Idea Series” clearly depicts the excitement of the time over the steam engine along with Elijah’s work. While on the train, he notes the difficulty of constantly stopping to oil the engine from underneath the train. He finally designs and patents an oil cup to do the job automatically. During his lifetime McCoy filed fifty-seven patents; he was “an inventing marvel.” Slavin’s pen and ink and watercolor double-page naturalistic scenes tell the visual story while providing information about railroad travel at the time. Occasionally some animals appear as observers, adding to the light-hearted narrative. A note reports the origin of the expression “the real McCoy.” 2010, Tundra Books, Ages 5 to 8, $17.95. REVIEWERS: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780887769450

Balloons Over Broadway : The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade

Melissa Sweet

Sweet introduces her picture-book audience to just the kind of inventor kids would want to meet: Tony Sarg, the wizard behind the giant helium balloons that awe viewers of New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. His first effort for Macy’s department store was the design of mechanized puppets for their Christmas window, “Wondertown.” From there he moved on to orchestrating a parade for employees, which proved so popular that he devised oversized balloon figures operated on long sticks. As the parade audience swelled, the need for larger puppets became evident, and Sarg invented his signature helium behemoths, originally made of rubberized silk and manipulated by keepers who guided them along the streets (and under the elevated tracks!) on rope tethers. Sweet’s artwork is as joyous an affair as its subject–a confection of cartoon and collage and snippets of found print, with one glorious double-page spread in a vertical layout that demonstrates how the massive balloon dwarfs its costumed handlers. The text itself comes up a bit short on particulars of Sarg’s background and the timeframe for his accomplishments; closing notes, however, help fill this gap. Kids who can’t be there in person to revel in the aerial entertainment will be commandeering the remote for the TV broadcast. An author’s note, a bibliography, and source notes are included. Review Code: R — Recommended. (c) Copyright 2006, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2011, Houghton, 40p.; Reviewed from galleys, $16.99. Ages 5-9 yrs. REVIEWER: Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books).

ISBN: 9780547199450

Ben Franklin : His Wit and Wisdom from A to Z

Alan Schroeder

Illustrated by John O’Brien

Alphabetically arranged, but far more than just an alphabet book, this guide to the life of Ben Franklin covers his upbringing, his prominence in early America, his many inventions, and his beliefs and writings. Given the breadth of Franklin’s accomplishments, it shouldn’t be surprising that each letter gets more than one word: N stands for newspaper, the New-England Courant (one of Franklin’s papers); navigation (tied to his love of ships); and nude (“To his regret, (“air baths’ never caught on in colonial America”). O’Brien’s ink and watercolor images contribute ample humor, and Schroeder creates a well-rounded, fascinating portrait of an iconic American. 2011, Holiday House, Ages 6 to 10, $16.95. REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly.

ISBN: 9780823419500

Bill the Boy Wonder : The Secret Co-creator of Batman

Marc Tyler Nobleman

Illustrated by Ty Templeton

Every superhero has an origin story, and Nobleman parallels his picture-book history of the literary creation of Superman (Boys of Steel, BCCB 10/08) with the equally riveting story of Milton “Bill” Finger, whose vital role in the development of Batman has not been fully credited–or remunerated–since the character debuted in 1939. Whereas the Shuster/Siegel vs. DC battle royale is relegated to the epilogue of Boys of Steel, the injustice suffered by easygoing Bill Finger at the hands of Batman’s more assertive co-creator, Bob Kane, is the main event here. Boxed narration is heavily and delightfully laced with “bill” and “finger” puns and wordplay: “Bob publicly accused Bill of exaggerating. Despite that, Batmanians believed Bill. They began to murmur that he should be credited as the co-creator of Batman–that his Bill was long past due.” Templeton’s color artwork is a stylized homage to the period, with large frames, boxed insets, and splash pages that suggest rather than rigidly emulate the flow of a comic book. Engrossing and appropriate as the information in the main text may be for young listeners and readers, a six-page appended author’s note once again saves a heckuva lot of the good stuff for the older readers who will tackle its denser, sparsely photoillustrated prose. Here Nobleman discusses his research into the life of Bill Finger, which begins as a photo hunt and ends by uncovering an entire branch of the family that had lost all public connection with Finger, and who now collect royalties from DC: “And it may be as close to a happy ending as Bill Finger will ever get. He just didn’t live long enough to experience it.” Older readers will enjoy the vindication, and they will never again read the words “Batman created by Bob Kane” without a mildly disdainful snort. 2012, Charlesbridge, Grades 3 to 5, $17.95. REVIEWER: Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for the Book).

ISBN: 9781580892896

Buzz Beaker and the Cool Caps

Cari Meister

Illustrated by Bill McGuire

Just like his dad, Buzz Beaker is a problem-solver and an inventor, only his answers to dilemmas are delightfully child-like. In this edition, the summer temperatures have soared so that no one feels like doing much. Buzz’s house offers no relief because the air conditioner is broken. Even the inflatable swimming pool Buzz and his dog Raggs lie in is no comfort. While sitting in a puddle of sweat, Buzz has an inspiration, draws some plans in his journal, makes a shopping list, trots himself off to the hardware store, and comes back with an assortment of pots and pans, tubing, rope, and thermometers. After some trial and error, he fashions a metal hat for himself, his dad, and Raggs. The next day, he goes back to get more supplies for making “cool caps” for everyone in town. I love that Buzz does not succeed in his first efforts, but keeps trying and I love the humor in the illustrations and story. It is told in simple, nearly all one-syllable words and is vividly illustrated with expressive characters. Beginning readers will find a lot of satisfaction in the “Buzz Beaker Books” series. 2011, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Ages 5 to 8, $22.65. REVIEWER: Maggie Chase (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781434225269

The Dark Unwinding

Sharon Cameron

As an orphaned young woman in Victorian England, Katharine Tulman’s living situation and means of support are precarious. She is forced to reside with her odious Aunt Alice and Alice’s equally unpleasant son, who is poised to inherit the family fortune. A reclusive uncle holds the family estate and is reportedly throwing away the family money. In order to speed up the inheritance process for her son, Aunt Alice dispatches Katharine to the estate to have the uncle committed to an asylum. When Katharine arrives at Stranwyne Keep, however, nothing is as she expected. Instead of a lunatic, she finds a childlike savant presiding over a workshop of fantastical mechanical inventions, supported by a small army of workers rescued from the poor house. The workers plot, scheme, and cajole Katharine to leave Stranwyne unchanged. She faces an uncomfortable dilemma: to save Stranwyne and its people or preserve her own financial future. This is when the hallucinations and nightmares begin, causing her to question her own sanity. Cameron has produced a ripping good read with all the drama, intrigue, and romance of a Victorian pot-boiler with mystery, suspense, and hints of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. Nothing is as it originally seems, as the plot twists and turns, building tension. A strong ensemble cast of characters, led by a plucky heroine, makes the reader care what happens next. Fans of historical fiction and period dramas filled with intrigue and ulterior motives will enjoy this book. 2012, Scholastic, Ages 11 to 18, $17.99. REVIEWER: Amy Fiske (VOYA).

ISBN: 9780545327862

Everyday Engineering : Putting the E in STEM Teaching and Learning

Richard H. Moyer and Susan A. Everett

Photography by Robert L. Simpson III

Engaging students in active learning is always a challenge. Taking everyday objects apart to understand how they work is an excellent way to capture their attention, especially when you are looking at objects as familiar as clicking pens, bats, and squirt guns. This volume contains fourteen inquiry activities originally presented in Science Scope, NSTA’s peer-reviewed journal for middle level and junior high school science teachers. Connections between scientific concepts, engineering processes, and technology are seamlessly presented through simple 5E lesson cycle hands-on, student centered activities that immediately engage students. The activities are designed around objects that can be found in the office, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, with electricity, and with objects associated with outdoor recreation. For example, students explore the variables of density by designing a life preserver for an action figure that keeps its head above water no matter how it falls into the water. The authors do an outstanding job of extending the activity by having students modify their designs. This is truly what engineering is all about. It also models good scientific processes. As an educator, the reader will love several aspects presented in each article for them. There is the initial introduction that connects the activity to national standards for science, engineering, and technology. That is quickly followed by a short, historical information section related to the object. The historical perspective explains how this technology was developed to solve an everyday problem. Each step of the 5E lesson cycle is explained for the educator to make sure students get the most from their hands-on activities. Each section includes photos to illustrate what students should be seeing. Following each activity there is a conclusion, resources, and references. The index provides a quick way to find an activity that addresses a particular concept to teach. The best of all is a single page student worksheet that not only instantly engages students in their own learning but suggests collaboration between students, just the way real engineers work. It is easy to follow for students and requires little if any teacher intervention. For an educator, one of the daunting aspects of lab is providing enough materials for students to be able to work in groups. In the teacher background information the authors describe how to acquire needed materials in the most economical and reusable fashion so that these activities can be done by multiple groups within a class section and with five sections a day. Safety issues are stated both in teacher background and on student worksheets. It would not be fair to only point out the positives without mentioning a negative. The lessons usually take longer than stated. Students are so enthusiastic and engaged that they want more time to explore. Activities in this collection can be integrated into any science curriculum. While these activities were recommended for middle school students, they could easily be integrated into a high school physical science or physics class. This is a must-have collection of activities to introduce students to STEM integration, to make science fun, and to prepare students for their future. 2012, NSTA Press, Ages 11 to 14, $15.95. REVIEWER: Adah Stock (National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)).

ISBN: 9781936137190

The Fall Guy

Barbara Fradkin

Carpenter Cedric Elvis O’ Toole, who can fix almost everything, is outraged by his client Jeffrey Wilkins’s allegations. Startled when attorney Jonathan Miller serves him a court summons, Rick frets tax authorities might have become aware he does not consistently report income nor obtain construction permits. Frugal Rick values his rural home near Lake Madrid where he tinkers with his inventions and stockpiles odds-and-ends to create his ideas. Proud of his talents and work ethic, Rick knows his customers are usually satisfied with his construction. He is surprised Wilkins, for whom he had recently built a deck, is listed as the defendant on the court document. Confused by the legal jargon, Rick contacts his Aunt Penny who tells Rick that Wilkins’s wife Lori-Anne died when the deck railing collapsed, causing her fatal fall. The tightly written first person narrative chronicles Rick’s conversations with Constable Swan who is investigating the incident and his attempts to prove he is not guilty of poor construction. Rick clandestinely visits the accident scene, where he realizes the screws he used to build the railing have been replaced. He observes Lori-Anne’s self-absorbed children, Danny and Betsy, at her funeral and learns about Lori-Anne’s motivations to marry Wilkins. Rick’s innovative skills aid him to conduct surveillance of potential suspects involved in Lori-Anne’s death. Suspense escalates when Rick realizes who murdered Lori-Anne and flees during a perilous nighttime chase. With believable characters, both heroes and villains, this “Rapid Reads” series novel provides appealing clues and plot twists which enable readers to empathize with Rick’s plight and applaud his resourcefulness and ingenuity to resolve this whodunit. Readers might also enjoy Valerie Wolzien’s “Josie Pigeon” construction mysteries. 2011, Raven Books/Orca Book Publishers, Ages 15 up, $9.95. REVIEWER: Elizabeth D. Schafer (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781554698356

I Wonder Why Zippers Have Teeth and Other Questions About Inventions

Barbara Taylor

Barbara Taylor
One of many in the “I Wonder Why…” series by Kingfisher Publishers that bring a new reader into the nonfiction world. This book takes a reader through the world of inventions. In addition to informing us of some very interesting inventions they begin the book with what an invention is, or is not. The book has a table of contents with a question for each section and the graphics help to illustrate the text. The questions that start each chapter are meant to engage the reader and make them curious about the invention or topic. Do you know if horses can mow a lawn or if you can fit 1500 books in your pocket? Are you curious why zippers have teeth? All of these and much more will be discovered in this book. Every section is short and informative with fast facts associated in textboxes around the information. 2012, Kingfisher/MacMillan Children’s Books, Ages 9 to 13, $6.99. REVIEWER: Patricia Williamson (Children’s Literature).


ISBN: 9780753468012

The Industrial Revolution : Investigate How Science and Technology Changed the World : With 25 Projects

Carla Mooney

Illustrated by Jen Vaughn

This volume from Nomad’s Build It Yourself series begins with a timeline covering the period from the first steam engine in 1712 to 200 years later when Henry Ford began using a moving assembly line in 1913. After a brief introduction to the concept of ideas, inventions and innovations, Mooney presents a lively and mostly chronological view of the events and inventions that made up the Industrial Revolution. Readers will learn about revolutionary developments in the textile industry, transportation, communication, and electricity. But they will learn even more about the people and the social forces that shaped this era. There are stories about townspeople attempting to spy on an inventor, a discussion about the effects of labor unions, and numerous explanations of how technology changed people’s lives. There is also enough information about inventors such as Samuel Morse and Alexander Graham Bell to help readers understand the problems they faced and how they came to invent such useful technology. Sidebars are used very effectively to introduce new vocabulary and additional fun facts. Black and white drawings illustrate inventions such as Hargreave’s spinning machine which was also known as the “Jenny”. Each chapter includes several related crafts. There is such diversity here that most tweens will find something of interest — including hand looms and oatmeal-honey soap from the early 18th century to recording a radio program or making a pinhole camera from the early 20th century. There is a Table of Contents, a glossary, an index and a list of suggested websites, but an index of crafts would also have been useful. 2011, Nomad Press/Scholastic, Ages 9 to 12, $15.95 REVIEWER: Leigh Geiger, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781936313815

In the Bag!: Margaret Knight Wraps It Up

David Parkins

Margaret Knight, known as Mattie, grew up at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Her father died when she was three-years-old. As did many children of that time, when she was twelve-years-old Mattie went to work at a textile mill. By then she had already invented a number of items, including kites and sleds. A mill accident sent Mattie to the drawing board to invent a safety device for looms. Her major achievement, however, was the invention of a machine that created square-bottom paper bags. Here is the story of her invention and court case to receive the patent. Kulling keeps her text lively. Her carefully chosen words make this an accessible first biography for primary grade children. It is also a good book to keep in mind for older readers who are learning to read. Full page illustrations provide details of time and place as well as clues for the text. The full-color cartoon style engages the reader with marvelous facial expressions. Interesting information about child labor, nineteenth century mills and factories, patents, and attitudes toward girls and women of the era are all seamlessly woven into the text. One of the titles Kulling cites in her Sources of Information list is Marvelous Mattie by Emily Arnold McCully (2006). The McCully book includes more of Margaret’s inventions and two of her patent drawings and is an excellent introduction to this inventor. The Kulling book includes dates and is written in a simpler style for the emerging reader. Both deserve a place on the shelf. The story of a woman who had over ninety inventions and twenty patents in her lifetime is a welcome addition to the interesting “Great Idea Series.” 2011, Tundra Books, Ages 5 to 9, $17.95. REVIEWER: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781770492394

Inventors’ Secret Scrapbook

Chris Oxlade

Inventors’ Secret Scrapbook takes readers back in time to 1452 to Leonardo da Vinci, one of the world’s greatest inventors. He created scrapbooks of hand-sketched drawings of wonderful machines, including the parachute, a tank, a submarine and even a helicopter. The lack of scientific knowledge prevented the machines from being built at that time. Readers will discover how inventors came up with their ideas from the microscope to the world wide web in the 21st century. Readers will understand the importance of patents for inventions. Some of Leonardo’s inventions are being mass produced today. Inventors’ Secret Scrapbook encourages readers to of think of inventing their own ideas and recording them in their own inventor’s scrapbook. The Inventors’ Secret Scrapbook covers male inventors from either Europe or North America, and readers find themselves being introduced to the inventors Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek (microscope), Michael Faraday (a simple electric motor), Charles Babbage (calculating machine), Thomas Alva Edison (the electric light bulb), Alexander Graham Bell (telegraph machine), Guglielmo Marconi (wireless telegraph), James Murray Spangler (electric carpet cleaning machine), Orville and Wilbur Wright (Wright flyer), and John Logie Baird (First working television). The objective of Inventors’ Secret Scrapbook is for readers to be taken through time and to focus on the inventions, rather than the inventors. For example: “Did You Know: Radio communication quickly became popular on ships for keeping in contact with the shore and other ships. As the Titanic sank in the Atlantic in 1912, radio operators on board sent distress signals using Marconi’s new equipment.” The two page chapters, with an invention and diagram on how the invention works, along with a timeline, is well illustrated. Either a black and white or coloured photo is included in the two page chapter with each inventor. The book is very satisfying and interesting to the reader. The high gloss paper makes the print stand out for easy reading, with words bolded that are found in the glossary. Inventors’ Secret Scrapbook also provides website links to further information as well as an index for easy reference. This is a book that should be purchased for a public library or an elementary school library. Recommended. Rating: *** /4. Grades 4-7. (Crabtree Connections) 2011, Crabtree, 32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.) and $20.76 (RLB.). Ages 7 to 10. REVIEWER: Gloria McGiffen (CM Magazine).

ISBN: 9780778799092

Lost Boy : The Story of the Man Who Created Peter Pan

Jane Yolen

Illustrated by Steve Adams

New York : Dutton Children’s Books, c2010.

Kristine Wildner (Catholic Library World, March 2011 (Vol. 81, No. 3)) Creatively wrapping the story of J.M. Barrie’s life together with quotes and images from Peter Pan, prolific author, Jane Yolen, has created another winner in the picture book biography genre, which will not only attract young readers, but also inspire them to read his original works. Although adult biographies tell of Barrie’s dark side, here he is portrayed as a man to be admired; a hard-working man who rose from an impoverished youth to become a successful author, a kind man, and generous benefactor. Steve Adams’ illustrations have a rough wood texture and capture moments in his life connecting to Peter Pan (playing pirates, mother reading stories, the Llewelyn Davies family’s St. Bernard, etc.). Visually attractive, the layout of each spread features a full color painting on one side, with the text and an illustrated inset and quotation on the opposite page. Many readers will gravitate toward this book because Peter Pan (the movie) is a classic which few children grow-up without. Moreover, Barrie’s fairy, Tinker Bell, has become a Disney franchised inspiration that has generated a number of fairy stories permeating popular children’s literature today. Including an author’s note listing numerous sources, concluding with a list of Barrie’s other books and plays, and a list of the famous actresses who have played Peter Pan, Lost Boy is a first-rate choice for any library. 2010, Dutton Children’s Books, Ages 4 to 8, $17.99. REVIEWER: Kristine Wildner (Catholic Library World).

ISBN: 9780525478867


Prudence Breitrose

Illustrations by Stephanie Yue

First-time novelist Breitrose takes the familiar “mouse story” genre into the 21st century with this lighthearted tale of 10-year-old Megan and her collaboration with the Mouse Nation, a network of highly intelligent mice who make regular use of human technology. The author envisions a humorous parallel world of mice who could “e-mail each other… post news about themselves on MouseBook, blog, and check facts in Whiskerpedia.” After Megan’s uncle invents a tiny Thumbtop computer, the perfect size for a mouse, Megan becomes the target of the tech-savvy mice, led by the Big Cheese, and is assigned a talking mouse called TM3 (later renamed Trey), who attempts to persuade Megan to deliver this technology. The relationship between Megan and Trey is strong, though other characters are less developed and the story can be convoluted, with multiple cross-country trips, Megan signing a treaty with the mice on behalf of humanity, and an environmental undercurrent to boot. But the strong-willed heroine and enthusiastically imagined world of computer-literate mice result in an amusing adventure. Final art not seen by PW. 2011, Disney Hyperion, Ages 8–12, $16.99. REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly.

ISBN: 9781423124894

No Room for Dessert

by Hallie Durand

Illustrations by Christine Davenier

Lively third-grader Dessert returns for more comic classroom and family fun as she learns to cope with jealousy in her third outing (Just Desserts , 2010, etc.). Dessert certainly doesn’t lack confidence. She’s sure she’ll easily win the prize for the best invention in her classroom’s Thomas Edison unit. At home, however, things don’t look as promising. Her mom spends all of her time with her two baby brothers and barely notices Dessert, while her dad concentrates on managing the family’s restaurant, devoted entirely to fondue. As her despair at home increases, her certainty that she’ll win the classroom prize increases, especially when she privately judges her classmate’s inventions as obviously inferior to her own Vending Dresser, which would dispense a full month’s worth of complete daily outfits at the mere press of a button. If she doesn’t win, however, this fully realized, vivacious little character might learn some important lessons beyond those her teacher, Mrs. Howdy Doody, includes in the curriculum. When Dessert’s mom forgets to pick her up at school, some family lessons may make Dessert feel much better, especially as she gets to eat real dessert–first!–at the family restaurant. Davenier’s sparkling line drawings help young readers visualize the action. Another romp full of zesty, true-life fun. 2011, Atheneum, Ages 7 to 10, $14.99. REVIEWER: Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews).

ISBN: 9781442403604

Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum

Meghan McCarthy

People blowing bubbles with bubble gum grace the cover of this book that is well-written in a simple fashion to explain the birth of bubble gum. A limited amount of text offers readers the complete story of the creation of a new kind of gum. The tale begins with the introduction of Walter Deimer, an accountant in a chewing gum and candy factory, before backtracking to present the history of peoples like the Greeks, Native Americans, and early settlers who chewed gummy substances. Informative text then gets back to Walter and weaves the interesting story of how he experimented to create a new gum long after his boss had given up. His final product made its way to a store the day after Christmas in 1927 and people have been blowing pink bubbles with his creation ever since. Text is engaging and educational without being didactic. In addition, short sentences and lively illustrations work well together. Detailed end matter includes more about Walter Deimer, several facts about gum, a photo of children selling gum in the early twentieth century, and a photo of Post Alley gum deposits. This book that contains much nonfiction matter has the appeal of a fictional tale. 201-, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Ages 7 to 10, $15.99. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781442436770

Stealing Air

Trent Reedy

Three young boys with stolen airplane material can only lead to disaster. Brian is getting ready to attend a new school because of his dad’s new job. He enjoys skateboarding, flying airplanes, and hanging out with his friends. But his dad sold their Cessna to pay for the new business and Brian has to make new friends. But his first day of meeting people does not exactly end well. He makes an enemy of the local bully, gets befriended by a social outcast, and must begin keeping secrets from his family. Brian must decide how to handle the bully, commit social suicide, and fly a plane without a cockpit in this wild and crazy tale of boys growing up. If he can make the right decisions then he will be able to make lifelong friends, save his dad’s business and stay alive. Young boys will revel in the daring exploits and moan with sympathy at the stories of school and social life. The book is about life, decisions, and trust. While the crazy stunts that are pulled are not for the timid, the message is something that parents would want their child to hear. 2012, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99. REVIEWER: Tima Murrell (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780545383073

Timeless Thomas : How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives

Gene Barretta

Following the same format as Ben & Now, the author’s book about Ben Franklin’s inventions, this charming and informative book conveys to young readers the timelessness and the timeliness of those by Thomas Edison. It opens, appealingly, with multiple colorful illustrations of a similarly young Edison both observing simple items, such as a plant in a beaker and a ball rolling down a slope, and experimenting with more complex ones, such as a liquid cooking in a test tube. The story then leap frogs to his creation of two Invention Factories in New Jersey and the ideas, discoveries, and products that emerged from them. On facing pages of double-face spreads, each invention shows, on the left-hand side, the use we make of it in the “Present Day” and the initial discovery in “Edison’s Lab.” For instance, a joyful illustration of two boys (one black, one white) and a dog crooning into microphones and playing electronic instruments on the left side is compared with Edison’s tinfoil phonograph on the right. Inserts below explain how Edison’s recording device worked. Other such comparisons include the telephone, photocopiers (beginning with Edison’s electric pen), batteries, voting machines, X-rays (Edison’s fluoroscope), movie cameras and movies (Edison’s kinescope), and electric generators. The book concludes, helpfully, with brief biographies of Edison’s employees, Thomas Trivia, such as the fact that he had only a few months of formal education, and a short bibliography. 2012, Henry Holt and Company, Ages 4 to 8, $16.99. REVIEWER: Cynthia Levinson (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780805091083

Weird & Wacky Inventions

Jim Murphy

This book is a collection of inventions that seem impossible to exist. Jim Murphy has assembled a collection of the weirdest and wackiest inventions and presented them in a quiz style that is challenging and fun for any child. The mustache guard, the dimple maker, the sunbather’s toe rings, the portable bath tub, and the used gum receptacle are just a few of the crazy inventions compiled in this book. Hundreds of colorful, elaborate, not to mention strange illustrations of various creations make the book a lot of fun. Each invention is explained in simple, great detail how and why each was successful or failed. This is the perfect gift for any child, above grade 3, interested in science and inventions. 2011, Sky Pony Press, Ages 8 to 12, $12.95. REVIEWER: Melanie Stuhr (Kutztown University Book Review, Fall 2012).

ISBN: 9781616084752

What Color is My World? : How African-American Inventors Changed the Way We Live

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld

A great mind is a great mind, it cares not for color of the skin. “What Color is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors” tells the story of young African-American teenagers Herbie and Ella as they seek their own ingenuity by looking back on the great African American inventors of the past two hundred years. From life saving surgeries, food preservation, computers and other technologies, this tale is informative, told by famed NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Raymond Obstfeld and a unique illustrative style from Ben Boos & A. G. Ford. “What Color is My World?” is an excellent addition to any children’s picturebook collection, highly recommended. 2012, Candlewick Press, Ages 10+, $17.99. REVIEWER: Midwest Book Review (Children’s Bookwatch,).

ISBN: 9780763645649

Updated 05/01/13

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