Inventions start with ideas. Everyone has ideas. Everyone can be an inventor. Inventions can be as huge as towering skyscrapers or as small as tiny micro machines. They can become essential parts of our lives like chairs and computers or they can be more frivolous like musical toothbrushes and orange flavored lipstick.
Encouraging young people to become inventors can be both educational and entertaining. The first step is to "find a need and fill it." Look around. One nine-year-old student was concerned because his cat liked to sleep on top of the gerbil's cage in his home. The cat inevitably fell through the screen and joined the gerbil, much to the dismay of both. This fourth grader invented a pointed Plexiglas roof for the gerbil cage. He solved his problem and he became a national winner in an Invent America contest.
When thinking about inventions it is helpful to keep the guidelines for acquiring patents in mind. (1) The invention must be new. It cannot be in existence anywhere else in the world and it cannot be similar to something previously described in printed publications. (2) The invention must be useful. It must serve some real function. (3) The invention must be nonobvious. It must be truly different from similar objects. Changing the color, material, or size does not qualify the piece as an original invention.
Making a working model or creating a distinct prototype is essential. Then students need to write a complete description of the construction of the invention and its uses. Once all these steps have been completed, an Invention Convention is great fun. This can be done first in each classroom. These winners can advance to grade level competitions and then to school wide exhibits. District wide meets are also a possibility. Challenging students to create original inventions is definitely worth the time and effort involved. Most importantly, kids and adults alike should enjoy the experience!
For one of America's foremost inventors visit our feature about Benjamin Franklin.
Contributor: Phyllis K. Kennemer
The last part of the nineteenth century was truly a prolific age of invention. The telephone, electric lights, the phonograph, typewriters, the gas powered car, electric motors, the camera, the zipper and, of course, powered human flight were all invented during this time period. Topics covered in this "Great Inventions" series range from vaccines to gunpowder and weaponry. This book deals with aviation history. Chapters include the early days of human flight; the Wright brothers and their experiments in powered aviation; how World War I impacted the aviation community; the life of the "Lone Eagle," Charles A. Lindbergh; the development of commercial aviation; the great contribution of aviation in World War II; the jet age; the space age; and the future of aviation. In an attempt to cover the great wealth of aviation history, sky blue boxes of additional information are scattered throughout the book. Information about zeppelins, the internal combustion engine, women aviators, notable transatlantic flights, aviation stamps, the first flight attendants, the first pilot's license issued in the United States, the use of the atomic bomb, breaking the sound barrier, the fastest airplane, general aviation, and helicopters is touched upon in these blue boxes. The back matter contains a glossary, a time line of major aviation events, a list of pioneers in aviation and each one's significance, a bibliography, a list of web sites, and a lengthy index. This series includes the titles The Airplane, The Automobile, Clocks, The Cotton Gin, Electricity and the Lightbulb, Gunpowder and Weaponry, The Printing Press, The Steam Engine, The Telephone, and Vaccines. 2006, Marshall Cavendish/Benchmark, $37.07. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Sally J. K. Davies (Children's Literature).
Alexander Graham Bell: Inventor of the Telephone
Edited by TIME for Kids with John Micklos, Jr.
This book highlights the extraordinary life and career of Alexander Graham Bell. From an introductory chapter that highlights what is arguably Bell's greatest achievement-the invention of the telephone-through a total of eight chapters that discuss the key points in Bell's life, the author provides a text that is very young-reader friendly. Beginning with Bell's ability to invent at an early age (with the enthusiastic support of his parents), through his early career and eventual marriage and into the prime of his life, this book provides a very positive and personal portrait of Bell as both inventor and as humanitarian, especially in connection with the deaf community. A final interview with contemporary entrepreneur Bill Gates on the importance of Bell's work and his influence on contemporary society completes the narrative course of the text. The photographs found throughout the book and the time line of Bell's life help support young readers' understanding of the great inventor and his influence on generations of people. A solid read for younger readers. 2006, Gareth Steven Publishing, Ages 7 to 9, $3.99. Reviewer: Jean Boreen (Children's Literature).
James Lincoln Collier
A balanced history of the vehicles Americans love, this book does an excellent job of telling the story of the car. The journey is a celebration of the spirit that influenced the popularity of the auto, as well as a look at the impact its production has had on the environment. From their early days, cars represented freedom, autonomy, and affluence to their owners. The excitement around these "self-propelled machines" is conveyed, along with their development from steam engines to internal-combustion engines. Once the gas-powered car surpasses early electric cars, names like Daimler, Michelin, Ford, Rolls, Royce, and Mercedes enter the story. After the nuts-and-bolts of their invention, the social history that parallels the growth of the auto is outlined. The prosperity of the twenties in combination with the development of the "closed car" led to increased sales. The development of roads and highways caused the growth of the suburbs in the 1950s. Readers will see how the invention of the car has truly shaped our country. The book concludes with the problems associated with cars that will have to be resolved if Americans are to enjoy open roads and clean air in the future. A nice timeline summarizes the history from 1712 to 2001 with a sentence or two for each year featured, and the book also includes related websites, a bibliography, an index, and a glossary. 2006, Benchmark/Marshall Cavendish, $37.07. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Mary Loftus (Children's Literature).
Brain Power: What's the Big Idea? 2,400,000 Years of Inventions
Beginning with the period 2,400,000 to 8000 BC, when the "Big Idea" was the cooperative hunt and stone tools, and when animal-fat lamps, cave painting, and fish traps were cutting-edge technology, this book explores humankind's groundbreaking inventions, discoveries, and ideas through the ages. Each era gets a two-page spread with lavish, colorful, and comic illustrations. Clear textual material in thumbnail format describes each era, its Big Idea, its major political/sociological events, its key inventions, and its important inventors and thinkers. For example, in the Renaissance (1415-1565), the Big Idea is the printing press; major events include the fall of Constantinople and the zenith of the Inca Empire; inventions incorporate the globe and the graphite pencil; and, Gutenberg is the highlighted inventor. In the current age, from the year 2000 onward, tissue engineering is the Big Idea; events include the collapse of Antarctica's Larsen B ice shelf; fingerprint and optical scanners are listed among the inventions; and, an American, Ann Tsukamoto, co-patentee of a process to isolate the human stem cell, is the highlighted inventor. Stewart's juxtaposition of scientific breakthroughs with political and cultural events makes this volume more than a mere chronology. Interested readers will enjoy ferreting out connections between necessity and invention and learning about men and woman of science whose pioneering accomplishments are generally unheralded outside scientific circles. The flamboyant format will attract elementary school readers and could turn off older readers. Nevertheless the content is substantive and the book is a fun read that with pushing will appeal to middle school readers, especially boys. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2005, Barron's, 64p.; Glossary. Index. Illus., $14.99 Trade pb. Ages 11 to 14. Reviewer: Mary E. Heslin (VOYA, April 2006 (Vol. 29, No. 1)).
Bright Ideas: The Age of Invention in America 1870-1910
Young readers are taken on a journey back in time to the Age of Invention, 1870-1910, when some of America's finest discoveries were made. Electricity, traffic lights, cameras, and flight are a few of the discoveries described, along with photographs of the inventors and other helpful information. Well-written and insightful, this title tells the story of miraculous inventions that have shaped the world we know today. Young readers will come away with a better understanding of history and the process of inventing. 2005, National Geographic Society, $12.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
Bushnell's Submarine: The Best Kept Secret of the American Revolution
Arthur S. Lefkowitz
The advent of the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution heralded a rise in critical thinking and allowed man, for the first time, the opportunity to experiment and create things never before dreamt possible. Bushnell was an intellectual and a Patriot who sought to aid the cause of the American Revolution by inventing a submersible that could target British ships blockading American harbors. Building on the research of British scientists, Bushnell was able to construct a one-man submarine that could attach a keg of gunpowder to the keel of British ships with the intention of destroying the ship. Numerous tests were successfully conducted and historical documents indicate that high ranking officials in the Continental Congress and high-ranking Army officers were eager to see Bushnell's submarine put into action. Unfortunately, events conspired against Bushnell and his submarine never successfully destroyed a British ship, though it came close at least twice. Lefkowitz gives a very interesting account of this little known first foray into the use of submarines in warfare. The author quotes historical documents that support his thesis and also provides reproductions of maps used at the time, as well as summaries of naval vessels and other weapons used during the war. Several drawings of the submarine and other naval vessels are fascinating inclusions in this account of the first successful development of a submarine. 2006, Scholastic Inc, Ages 10 to 15, $16.99. Reviewer: Danielle Williams (Children's Literature).
Computer Game Developer
With its cover photograph of a young man playing a video game-and apparently getting paid for it-this book will provide a good introduction to a field that may be a desirable career for many young people. This overview of the computer game industry outlines a typical day in the life of a computer game developer, traces the history of computer games, and explains the differences among various types of computer games. One chapter dissects the development of a video game, illustrating the ways various professionals, from designers to animators to programmers and sound designers, bring a game concept to life. Another chapter explains the various tools used by game designers, while another chapter outlines the career paths available for those interested in pursuing a career in video and computer game design, including a list of job titles in the field. A final chapter profiles notable figures in the field, including the developers of The Legend of Zelda and of SimCity. A comprehensive glossary, an appendix listing U.S. schools with programs in game development, and suggestions for further reading will make this book a good resource for aspiring developers. This is a volume in the series "Weird Careers in Science." 2006, Chelsea House, Ages 11 to 15, $25.00. Reviewer: Norah Piehl (Children's Literature).
Cool Stuff and How it Works
Dorling Kindersley's latest highly visual book focuses on the science and technology of modern gadgets, materials, and machines, and provides lucid explanations of why they work the way they do. Divided into general sections entitled, "Connect," "Play," "Live," "Move," "Work," and "Survive," the authors examine everything from fire suits to skin grafts, explaining the basic technology through a combination of photography, illustrations, diagrams, and bite-sized information facts. Like most DK books, the illustrations and photography offer more insight than does the text, which provides a very simplistic explanation of the technology behind each invention. However, the information gives readers an introduction to the concepts in a way that is easy for even the least scientifically inclined to understand. Reference matter includes a time line, a glossary of technical terms, a listing of innovators and groundbreaking scientists and a complete index. This is a terrific introduction to the science and technology of everyday--and not-so-everyday--things we take for granted. 2005, DK Publishing, $24.99. Ages 9 up. Reviewer: Lauri Berkenkamp (Children's Literature).
Dr. Welch and the Great Grape Story
Mary Lou Carney
llustrated by Sherry Meidell
Grapes have been used to make wine from early history. But the idea that their juice could make a tasty drink was, in 1846, the inspiration of a dentist named Thomas Bramwell Welch. He disliked alcohol and its bad effects, so he wanted to invent a drink with no alcohol that could be used for church communion. In Carney's sprightly narrative Welch, who has already patented other inventions, tries cooking the grapes to kill the yeast that ferments them to obtain non-alcoholic juice. With his son's help, he produces bottles of grape juice to take to the church pastor. An end note fills in "the rest of the story." It was a long time before the juice became popular and accepted. The light-hearted tale almost guarantees chuckles by including the antics and interactions of Welch's seven children. Meidell's watercolors also supply plenty of details in full page and smaller scenes. This is a family of characters, but the focus is on the clever head as he takes over the kitchen and cooks up his purple brew. His persistence is finally rewarded, and Welch's Grape Juice is still sold today. 2005, Boyds Mills Press, $16.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature)
Electricity and the Light Bulb
James Lincoln Collier
Thomas Edison did not actually invent the lightbulb, Sir Joseph Wilson Swan did. Edison, it turns out, made a commercially viable lightbulb and an electrical system that worked for a whole city. This was something I did not know before reading this title. A history of the study of electricity, Collier starts with the Greek philosophers who noticed that if you rubbed a piece of amber, pieces of straw would stick to it. Today we know that is static electricity and that amber is particularly good at holding a charge. For the ancient Greeks it was a mystery. The mystery unravels slowly in this text but with well-written prose. We meet famous scientists, including Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday and eventually Benjamin Franklin whose invention of the lightening rod made him a hero in America and abroad and greatly helped his diplomatic efforts for the American Revolution. The book then addresses the life-changing uses of electricity, from lights to transportation, and some of the inventors who contributed to these changes. Illustrated with drawings and photos, this book is part of the "Great Inventions" series and well worth the reading time. 2005, Marshall Cavendish, $37.60. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen (Children's Literature).
Eli Whitney is probably best remembered as the man who improved the cotton gin, a machine that separates seeds from cotton fibers faster than any person could. But Whitney should also be remembered as the man who developed the idea of mass production--a process of making individual parts then assembling them into a finished product. Factories around the world today use this process to make things quickly and cheaply. This biography is part of the "Lives and Times" series, which "covers the life of a famous person." The brief account of the life of Eli Whitney--almost picture book in format with large print text and colorful illustrations on every page--is entertaining, informative and written for the youngest readers. Words highlighted in bold are defined in the glossary. And kids will readily understand the definitions given for words such as model or patent. At the end of the book readers will find a Fact File (the word gin in cotton gin is short for engine), the glossary, a list of more books to read and an index. 2004, Heinemann Library/Reed Elsevier, $7.25. Ages 5 to 7. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen (Children's Literature).
The First Computers
Guy de la Bédoyère
Today's kids are skilled at using their computers. But do they know much about the history, the science and the people involved in the creation of these technological marvels? If not, this book provides an excellent introduction. Part of the "Milestones in Modern Science" series, the book is designed to chronicle "development and impact of" computers. Beginning with a brief introduction to computers--their parts, memory and programs--the book then takes the readers from ancient times to today. Anyone familiar with computers knows of Bill Gates, founder of the largest software company in the world, but very few will recognize Blaise Pascal who created the first mechanical calculating machine in the mid 1600s. Apple is a familiar name to computer users, but what about Colossus, Enigma, Eniac or Univac? Every chapter is filled with diagrams, photographs and colorful illustrations that highlight the informative text. Almost every page has Fact or Key People sidebars which give additional information on relevant topics and people. At the back of the book, readers will find a time line, a glossary, sources for further information and an index. 2006, World Almanac Library, $30.00. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen (Children's Literature).
The Flyer Flew!: The Invention of the Airplane
Lee Sullivan Hill
Illustrated by Craig Orback
This new addition to the "On My Own Science" series tells the history behind the first airplane flight by Orville and Wilbur Wright. The two brothers were interested in many things from bicycles to gliders and the aerodynamics of things that fly. The story shows the many steps that they took to finally make their dream of flying come true. The books discusses the many setbacks and successes that an inventor might encounter as he tries to build something totally new and different. An afterword section explains the five steps normally used in the scientific method. There is a glossary and a bibliography. 2006, Millbrook Press/Lerner, Ages 6 to 10, $23.93. Reviewer: Barbara Youngblood (Children's Literature).
The Gadget Hero
Illustrated by Lisa Thompson and Matthew Stapleton
Author Thompson has done it again; number 7 in the "Wonder Wits" series is a book of thoughts and ideas. Luke and Sophie attend the Gadget Fair, looking for a great story for their school newspaper. They are disappointed by the inventions until they spot a woman placing a sign on a vending machine. The sign simply says "Thanks Hero." They had seen these signs throughout the fair building, so they asked her about them. They discover that she is Miss Richards, president of the Hero Appreciation Society. Hero was a Greek inventor in Alexandria, Egypt, approximately 2000 years ago. Many of his inventions are used today in elevator doors, vending machines, and steam-powered engines. Excited by Hero's inventions, the students realize they have the perfect story for their paper. They place signs all over the school and have a contest, using Hero's wind ball--a spinning ball powered by steam. Newspapers are snatched up on printing day and Luke and Sophie are a great success. Miss Richards receives her own copy of her science hero, and she makes Luke and Sophie members of the Hero Appreciation Society. Who knows what these two students will invent in their time? Detailed explanations and pictures of these inventions make the book easily understandable for any student interested in science. This book would be an asset to the elementary science curriculum. 2006 (orig. 2004), Picture Window Books, $19.93. Ages 6 to 10. Reviewer: Debbie West (Children's Literature).
Galileo: Astronomer and Physicist
Robin S. Doak
This excellent biography in the "Signature Lives" series traces the life of the great Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, the man who revolutionized science with his defense of Copernican theory and his own persistent assertions that the earth revolved around the sun. Born in 1564 and educated as a philosopher and mathematician, Galileo went on to become a teacher, scientist, and inventor who invented a device to measure air temperature, a compass to solve math problems, and--most significantly--a telescope which he used to observe celestial bodies. Galileo published his scientific observations and theories in works entitled The Starry Messenger and Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. With his publications he quickly attracted the punitive attention of the Roman Catholic Church which summoned Galileo to Rome to face the Inquisition in 1632. Galileo was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment as a heretic in 1633. However, his imprisonment was soon commuted to permanent house arrest and he died while still confined to his home in 1642. Doak's richly-detailed biography clearly describes and analyzes both the astronomer's life and his scientific discoveries; moreover, the author provides plenty of interesting insights into the lifestyles and culture of the Italian Renaissance. Throughout the 112-page book, there are dozens of beautiful illustrations that supplement and further clarify the well-written text. 2005, Compass Point Books, $22.95. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Tim Davis (Children's Literature).
Galileo: Renaissance Scientist and Astronomer
This book is part of the "Makers of the Middle Ages and Renaissance" series. The text presents the facts but also draws the reader in and captures the enthusiasm and inquisitive mind of Galileo. His life was often difficult as he challenged accepted theories and his professorial career suffered, but his imagination and intellect keep him pushing ahead with his experiments and inventions. He often wrote in simple terms and angered the intelligentsia by writing in Italian, the common language among the people, rather than Latin. His development and improvement of the telescope enabled him to demonstrate his controversial theory that the Earth was not at the center of the solar system. The reaction of the Catholic Church is covered, including the later move to acknowledge that the Church had been in error when they reacted to his publications. Each chapter is followed by questions and the book includes a chronology and timetable as well as a listing of books and websites for further research. 2006, Chelsea House Publishers/Haights Cross Communications, Ages 10 up, $30.00. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford (Children's Literature).
Galileo's Journal 1609-1610
Jeanne K. Pettenati
Illustrated by Paolo Rui
Galileo is known today for his studies of the stars and the solar system, but his use of scientific methods to conduct his studies and experiments was as revolutionary as his discoveries. Jeanne Pettenati has created a journal that Galileo might have written during one brief year when he used trial and error to create a telescope--or spyglass as he called it--and then asked questions about what he saw when he looked at Jupiter with his spyglass. He was always ready to try new experiments and observations to find the answers to his questions. What are the bright stars next to Jupiter? What if the stars and Jupiter are all moving? His conclusions made his real book The Starry Messenger a bestseller of his day, but it also infuriated the religious authorities, who prevented him from traveling or teaching anymore. The book makes an important but ancient man a little more human. The illustrations are adequate with the best rendering of Galileo on the cover, where the glint in his eye draws the reader in to share the quest. Pettenati's notes include a brief biography, as well as an explanation of precisely where she took liberties in creating Galileo's journal. 2006, Charlesbridge, Ages 6 to 12, $16.95. Reviewer: Karen Leggett (Children's Literature).
Illustrated by Lisa Thompson and Matthew Stapleton
With child-like illustrations and a recurring cut-out photograph of Gizmo the dog throughout this chapter book, one is left to wonder if it was done intentionally for young readers or is it a beginner's approach to bringing a story to life. Young readers could be easily distracted or perhaps amused at the illustrations and the banner questions and sentences at the bottom of the pages. This title, the sixth in the "Wonder Wits" series, has Luke and Sophie on a quest to invent a new toy. And they have the opportunity to meet Professor Flukelar, famous toy inventor. As they go along, they gain insight and knowledge as to what happens in the toy-invention process. At the same time, Flukelar shares some historical facts about present-day toys. Readers will discover that Play-Doh was originally intended to clean wallpaper and the idea of the Frisbee began with someone seeing pie tins being thrown. The text is easy to read for young readers. At the end of the story, a Toy History, a Game Plan Challenge to create a new game and Toy Invention facts are presented. 2006, Picture Window Books, $14.95. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Rosa Roberts (Children's Literature).
The Genius of Leonardo
Illustrated by Bimba Landmann
"I do it to preserve nature's most precious gift--and that gift is our freedom." are words from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci to explain why he designed weapons although he hated war. This compelling, illustrated biography of an incredible genius is recounted through the voice of his young assistant Giacomo. Not only was Leonardo a sensitive human being, but he was also an artist, designer, musician, mapmaker, scientist, and an inspiration for generations of people. Giacomo tells of the painting of the Mona Lisa and how the great master taught others to become painters. He accompanies Leonardo to the market where the compassionate artist bought all the caged birds just to set them free. And when Leonard traveled to the French court, his assistant was just as entranced as the others to see the golden lion created by the master. The lion walked and as it did, lilies fell from its stomach. Many drawings and quotations from Leonardo's notebooks accompany the engrossing text. The mysterious paintings, reminiscent of the muted palette and imagery of the artist Giorgio de Chirico, are magnificent! With multiple vanishing points, unique perspectives, and a touch of glowing silver they are spellbinding! What a wonderful way to learn about an incredible man! 2000, Barefoot Books, $16.99. Ages 6 up. Reviewer: Laura Hummel (Children's Literature).
The Children's Literature Choice List, 2001; Children's Literature; United States
Parent's Guide to Children's Media, 2000; Parent's Guide to Children's Media, Inc.; United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
Utah Children's Book Awards, 2002; Nominee; Informational; Utah
George Crum and the Saratoga Chip
Crum is a little-known historical figure who invented a well-known favorite food, the potato chip. George, part African American and part Native American had a hard time growing up in the prejudicial world of 1830's Saratoga Springs, New York. His passion for cooking made him famous and wealthy, but he never had patience for preferential treatment of clientele. It was the complaints of a fussy diner who led him to invent the quickly-fried thin potato slices called Saratoga Chips, now named potato chips. These helped bring him the money needed to open his own restaurant, an establishment where people of all kinds had to wait for service regardless of race, color, or class. 2006, Lee and Low, Ages 6 to 10, $16.95. Reviewer: Susie Wilde (Children's Literature).
George Eastman and the Story of Photographic Film
George Eastman made photography accessible to everyone by making cameras affordable and easy to use. A hard worker and ahead of his times, he created the Kodak Company and changed the way the world remembers the past. Eastman was not only a good businessman and scientist, but he also was a philanthropist. He gave away millions for education. He also donated money so that children in his hometown would have access to dental care. This title is part of the "Uncharted, Unexplored, and Unexplained" series that explores many of the scientific advancements of the 19th century. These books do not just present science facts, but give every reader, even those not so interested in science, a chance to connect to the topic by providing a history of the person and presenting historical and cultural facts about the time period in information boxes. This book would make a fine resource in any library or classroom since it is an excellent research tool with a chronology, bibliography, glossary, index, and list of other books for further research. 2005, Mitchell Lane Publishers, $19.95. Ages 9 to 14. Reviewer: Louise Parsons (Children's Literature).
George Washington Carver: Scientist and Inventor
As part of the series, "Fact Finders," this biography is well written and the format is certainly reader friendly. Historical photographs that add interest and support the text accompany every page. The author also includes boxes in the margins of the pages that contain either quotations or facts. Did you know that George Washington Carver always wore a fresh flower in the buttonhole of his suit or that Carver brought soybeans to the South? I was fascinated with how Carver found over 300 uses for the peanut. At least 30 products can be made from just the peanut skins. It is no wonder he has been referred to as The Peanut Man. Included at the back of the book are "Fast Facts," a "Time Line," a "Glossary," "Internet sites," "Read More" and an "Index." It amazes me how much information is given in just 32 pages. All vocabulary words that can be found in the glossary are highlighted. The quotations chosen for this book are great, but my favorite is, "Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom." What a great writing prompt that would be! Both boys and girls will find this biography interesting. This book would be perfect in a classroom or school library. It also lends itself to the science and social studies classroom libraries and can be used as a resource for a research paper or for nonfiction reading. I highly recommend this book because the format is easy to follow and the short chapters will benefit even reluctant readers. 2006, Capstone Press, $22.60. Ages 8 to 11. Kathie M. Josephs (Children's Literature).
Hooray for Inventors!
Inspired by the inventive genius of Leonardo, the author has identified over a dozen other inventors and literally crammed amazing amounts of information into the two to four large pages devoted to each. This is done through several means: comic book-type sequences with boxes including cartoon actions, verbal exchanges and informative captions. Around the borders, like in illuminated manuscripts, run a turtle family and various birds, all of whom comment on the ongoing story in the strip. In appreciation of one particular pair of inventors, she devotes a spread to a picture of the Wright Brothers' plane in flight with an admiring Statue of Liberty proclaiming "FABULOUS!" Ink outlines with transparent watercolors allow the artist the freedom to create her many figures and opulent amount of details. Although the information is factual, the overall tone is humorous. There are a couple of pages "cheering" women inventors and another couple pointing out a double dozen of the author's "favorites." There are also indexes of both inventors and inventions. An appealing way to study history. 2005, Candlewick Press, $16.99. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Ken Marantz (Children's Literature).
Best Children's Books of the Year, 2005; Bank Street College of Education; United States
I is for Idea: an Invention Alphabet
Illustrated by Kandy Radzinski
Did you know that the arrangement of a keyboard's letters used to be in any order the manufacturer wanted? Did you know a woman invented the material used in bullet proof vests? Did you know that the man for the Nobel Peace Prize is named invented dynamite? Do you know the year that blue jeans were invented? These facts and other interesting information are given in this fun and delightful book. The author has very cleverly written this book for two audiences. The poems are easy for younger readers to understand, while greater detail is given about each invention for older readers. Readers will be intrigued by the specific facts for each invention; they will want to turn each page to see what comes next. The illustrations are beautifully done with precise details and color to make each picture look realistic. Parents as well as teachers will enjoy reading this book to their children. Teachers may want to use this as a supplement in their science classroom or just for fun and interesting reading. 2005, Sleeping Bear Press/Thomson Gale, $16.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Cathi I.White (Children's Literature).
Inventing the Camera
One of mankind's most fascinating inventions is the camera. The earliest observations about the effect of the light bouncing off an object, traveling through a pinhole and producing an image are recorded in the 400s B.C. in China (Mo-tzu). Around 1000 A.D., an Arabian scholar, Al-Hazen, wrote an accurate description of the effects of light shining through a pinhole into a darkened room which would later become the camera obscura (Latin for "darkened room"). In the 1500s, a glass lens replaced the pinhole, and the addition of a mirror to reverse an image paved the way for the camera obscura (now a box) to become the camera we know today. Development combined with experimentation in Europe, England and the United States accelerated the evolution of the camera from the fleeting silver nitrate images of Thomas Wedgwood to the digital images sent so easily around the world today. The birth of photography, as we know it, is credited to Joseph Niepce and Louis Daguerre. From there, it was a relatively short step to George Eastman (Kodachrome film), Edwin Land (Polaroid Camera), the invention of electronic cameras and single use cameras, among other innovations. This history of the development of the camera is followed by chapters on how to take pictures, the parts of a camera, digital cameras, specialized cameras and possible future inventions and uses of the camera. A glossary and index conclude the test. The information is beautifully paired with photographs, graphic illustrations and colorful page design. This book would be an excellent addition to a science classroom or art class on photography. 2006, Crabtree Publishing Company, Ages 8 to 12, $8.95. Reviewer: Hazel Buys
Inventing the Telephone
The telephone is arguably the single most important invention for human communication since the printing press. Early forms of communication, such as signal flags, drumming, smoke signals, rock or clay slabs for writing, messengers on foot or horseback and paper and ink, were slow or limited in the information that they could send. Although, mankind had been familiar with the theory of how sound travels from the mid-200s B.C., it wasn't until the 19th century that the telephone was invented, credited alternately to Antonio Meucci (around 1849) and Alexander Graham Bell (1876). But it was Bell who laid the groundwork for the telephone as we know it today. After initial resistance, the use of the telephone expanded with lighting speed. The first central switchboard was in use by 1878, then long distance lines were established and by 1915, people in North America and Europe could talk to each other. The first pay phone was installed in 1889. The impact of the invention of the telephone on every day life today is so vast that it is difficult to measure. The explosion of related inventions such as the fax machine, TDD/TYY, walkie-talkies, pagers, PDAs, computers and the internet, is also having great impact on the way we conduct our personal and business lives. This summary of the invention of the telephone is accompanied by bright graphics and informative photographs. The closing page has a glossary and an index. This book would be a good addition to a middle school science class or library and also would provide a useful introduction to an older reader. 2006, Crabtree Publishing Company, Ages 8 to 12, $8.95. Reviewer: Hazel Buys
Inventing the Television
The idea that images and sound could be broadcast had its antecedents in wireless communication (radio) that was developed after the (wired communication) telegraph and the pantelegraph (early fax machine) were invented. The Selenium camera and the Nipkow disc led to the development of mechanical television and then, electronic televisions. In 1929, John Baird broadcast the first television program in England. Around the same time, in 1930, Philo T. Farnsworth was granted a patent for a television based on the cathode-ray tube in the United States. In 1939, Farnsworth launched his electronic television at the New York World's Fair and television as we know it was born. At first, there were only a few programs available but after World War II, interest in television and in producing a wide range of programs for broadcast grew. In 1953, the national magazine, TV Guide, was created. Color television did not become popular until programs began to be broadcast in color in the early 1960s. Subsequent developments in technologies, such as cable and satellite, as well as adaptations like closed-captioning, have helped to make television an essential part of daily life. Concluding chapters in this book review modern uses of the television in business and in the sciences and possible future uses of television. The graphics and photo-illustrations are well designed and help make the information easy to understand. The reader is directed to further research on the concluding page, which has a glossary and an index. This book would be a good addition to a middle school library or science center and would also provide a useful summary to an older reader. 2006, Crabtree Publishing Company, Ages 8 to 12, $25.26 and $8.95. Reviewer: Hazel Buys
Illustrated by Matthew Fernandes
How do inventors invent? Who invented the television? Why was the sandwich invented? Can you really invent foods? Are new materials still being invented? With more than fifty "frequently asked questions," this resource provides a wealth of information about the history of inventions, as well as the processes involved in inventing new things. The author discusses many popular inventions such as pencils, books, sneakers, light bulbs, chewing gum, ice cream cones, airplanes, eyeglasses, and the Internet; included are interesting facts about who invented them, and where, when and why they were invented. In addition to fascinating stories and humorous four-color illustrations, this fun resource also contains more than a dozen "byte" sidebars, a few hands-on activities, a time line, and an index. Young readers will enjoy the colorful, eye-catching layout of the book, and aspiring inventors will find plenty of inspiration for creating their own inventions. This is a great book for kids of all ages. 2003, Kids Can Press, $12.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Debra Briatico (Children's Literature).
Best Children's Books of the Year, 2004; Bank Street College of Education; United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
Red Cedar Book Award, 2005-2006; Nominee; Non-Fiction; British Columbia
Illustrated by Michael Chesworth
Inventor McGregor takes a whimsical look at an age-old question: Where do ideas come from? In his higgledy-piggledy house in Scotland, Hector McGregor can invent almost anything-peppermint pencils, jelly bean erasers, tartan grass and glow-in-the-dark books. His life is full of distractions, though, with his cheery wife, five children, pet hen named Hattie and his own love of painting, singing, dancing and strolling outdoors amongst the bluebells and heather. The president of the Royal Society of Inventors whisks Hector off to his own big, bare laboratory in the city where, alas, the man can't come up with a single idea. So, it's back home for Hector McGregor, back to the distractions that prove to be his inspiration and keep his heart "both happy and full." The text by Kathleen Pelley, a native Scot, is rich in the rhythms and vocabulary of that rugged land. Kids will get a big kick out of phrases such as "whirled and whooshed and wheeched" to describe the family dance and will love repeating kilt-wearing Angus's complaint about "that wee scoundrel of a Scottie down Loopy Lane." Illustrator Michael Chesworth proves every bit as creative as the red-haired title character as he packs energy, color and a host of amazing inventions into each picture. 2006, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 4 to 8, $16.00. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children's Literature).
Illustrations by Boris Kulikov
In this volume of the "Giants of Science" series, Krull begins by telling readers that Isaac Newton's life is not as straightforward as it may appear and that he didn't spend all his time in the ivory tower at Cambridge thinking intellectual thoughts. Then she shares stories about young Issac to show it. Growing up as a lonely boy, young Isaac spent much of his time thinking things over. As he goes to Cambridge, this trend continues-he has few friends and many thoughts. During the time of tumult, Isaac lived a generally quiet life, but his discoveries and experiments had lasting impact. In lively and engaging prose, Krull brings Issac Newton to life for young readers, demonstrating how the events of his childhood activities developed and fostered a fascination with math, science, and the way things work. Newton's discoveries about light and color, the planets, and his three Laws of Motion are described in straightforward and understandable ways. Details like his ongoing quarrel with Robert Hooke and his dispute with German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz humanize the scientist. Kulikov's drawings, which are almost cartoon-like, have the same effect, bringing an element of humor into a comprehensive text. Krull also includes bibliographical references, a detailed table of contents, a list of helpful websites for further study, and an index. 2006, Viking/Penguin Young Readers, Ages 9 to 13, $15.99. Reviewer: Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger (Children's Literature).
Johannes Gutenberg: Inventor of the Printing Press
This nine chapter biography on Johannes Gutenberg, recalls his invention of the printing press and his invaluable contribution to the Renaissance. Though somewhat unorganized, as the author tends to jump back and forth repeating parts of Gutenberg's life, the text flows well and vocabulary words are explained. When it comes to the many blank spots of Gutenberg's life, they are filled with realistic speculations. There could be more attention given to the invention and clearer illustrations. There is a glossary and timeline to serve the reader in the back. If you're willing to forgive the repetitiveness, you'll find this an informative and enlightening quick read. 2006, Compass Point Books, Ages 9 up, $30.60. Reviewer: Tracy Riddle (Children's Literature).
Joseph Lister and the Story of Antiseptics
Just about everyone will want to turn the pages of a book that begins: "They built the hospital over a cemetery. Maybe that's why the patients were dying." The story of Joseph Lister, who dramatically changed surgical practice with the introduction of antiseptics, reads like a fast-paced novel. Before Lister's discoveries, over 50% of patients who survived surgery died from infection. "Operation successful, patient died" was a common entry in 19th century hospital records. Brimming with information about Lister, his research, his contemporaries and the times in which he lived, this book would be an excellent addition to classroom and school libraries. Throughout the book, readers will find colorful illustrations and photographs. A chronology of Lister's life, a timeline of scientific discoveries related to antiseptics, chapter notes, a brief glossary, suggestions for further reading and an index are included. This is part of the series "Uncharted, Unexplored, and Unexplained Scientific Advancements of the 19th Century." 2005, Mitchell Lane Publishers, $19.95. Ages 9 to 13. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen (Children's Literature).
Karl Benz and the Single Cylinder Engine
Karl Benz was one of the many men who tried to invent a horseless carriage. In 1885 he put together a three-wheeled vehicle powered by a one-horsepower internal combustion engine. No one wanted to buy it. Who would buy an unreliable rich man's toy when horses and bicycles were far more dependable and cheaper? Who could prove that the horseless carriage was "a practical means of transportation, more comfortable than a bicycle, faster than a horse and carriage?" Who? Well, it was Benz's wife, Bertha. Leaving Benz a note that she was going to visit Grandma, Bertha and her two sons set off on an incredible 64 mile cross-country trip to show how safe and reliable the vehicle was. Though her trip made the automobile famous throughout Europe, it did not help sales. But it did keep her husband's dream alive. The company Benz founded is still in business today and produces a powerful luxury car that bears his name--the Mercedes Benz. Part of the series "Uncharted, Unexplored, and Unexplained, Scientific Advancements of the 19th Century," this account of Benz's life and his part in the history of the automobile is informative and entertaining. The book is well illustrated with period photographs. The final pages list a chronology of Benz's life, a timeline of discoveries related to the automobile and the internal combustion engine, chapter notes, a brief glossary, suggestions for further reading and an index. 2005, Mitchell Lane Publishers, $19.95. Ages 9 to 13. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen (Children's Literature).
Kids Inventing: A Handbook for Young Inventors
Not only does this book tell amazing stories of successful young inventors, it explains the step-by-step process of how to invent something by one's self. The reader is asked to brainstorm possible solutions to everyday problems, since that is how most inventions start. Quotes in the margins from kids who have won competitions encourage the reader. The book is organized with a "Table of Contents" and "Appendices" for further reading and useful websites about numerous contests. Risk taking is encouraged because trial and error is necessary. Activities at the end of each chapter are intended to get the reader's feet wet in the invention process. Most helpful are explicit instructions on how and when to apply for patents and trademarks. This book would be a great preview to a Science Fair, Invention Convention, or simple exercises in problem solving. 2005, John Wiley & Sons, $14.95. Ages 7 to 16. Reviewer: Julie Schneggenburger (Children's Literature).
Leonardo da Vinci
Illustrated by Boris Kulikov
The "Giants of Science" series brings us a fine edition dedicated to one of the great minds of all time. Many people think of da Vinci's art, but his scientific mind brought ideas, inventions, and research that have changed our world and continue to amaze us. Leonardo came from very humble beginnings. Many people influenced his very early life--for example, an uncle who loved nature and taught him many things about farming, plants, animals and the seasons. The artist Verrocchio became his early art teacher. His instruction included animal dissections to learn how their bodies went to together for the sake of painting or sculpting them. The invention of the printing press and the availability of books also gave many more options to Leonardo. He was curious about everything. This book will give the reader a good overview of da Vinci's life, the trials and the triumphs. There is also a bibliography of other works about him for young readers, website listings, and an index. A special chapter details where his famous notebooks are stored around the world. 2005, Viking Press, $15.99. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Barbara Youngblood (Children's Literature).
Best Children's Books, 2005; Publishers Weekly; United States
Children's Editor's Choice, 2005; Kirkus Reviews; United States
Kirkus Best Children's Books , 2005; Kirkus Reviews; United States
Kirkus Book Review Stars, June 15, 2005; United States
Notable Children's Books, 2006; American Library Association-ALSC; United States
Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2006; National Science Teachers Association; United States
Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, August 22, 2005; Cahners; United States
School Library Journal Book Review Stars, October 2005; Cahners; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
Outstanding Books by Wisconsin Authors and Illustrators Winner 2006 United States
Leonardo da Vinci: Young Artist, Writer, and Inventor
George E. Stanley
Leonardo DaVinci stands out as one of the most creative geniuses in recorded history. DaVinci excelled as an artist, inventor, engineer, and forward thinker. Yet, in his youth, DaVinci experienced some of the vicissitudes that his birth and social status entailed. Born to a young peasant girl, Leonardo was never close to his father. As his parents were unwed Leonardo was confronted with certain societal limitations due to his parentage. However, after being apprenticed to a famous artist in Florence, Leonardo DaVinci's genius stood out to such an extent that he made a memorable place for himself in the world of ideas. George E. Stanley takes the life of Leonardo DaVinci and transforms it into an enjoyable biographical novel. By primarily emphasizing Leonardo's younger years, Stanley offers readers an entertaining look at what those developmental portions of this Renaissance man's history might have been like. In Stanley's entertaining novel Leonardo comes across as both a brilliant thinker and a person who had issues with completion, confidence, and his spiritual views. This approach leaves the reader with a sense that Leonardo DaVinci was a human being like us and not some mythological figure. This is a fine book and one that fleshes out the life of a fascinating and amazing person. 2005, Aladdin Paperbacks, $4.99. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck (Children's Literature).
The Light Bulb
Historical photographs and reproduced artwork of Roberto Innocenti and Victor Gilbert are the highlights of this brief description of the light bulb's invention. A more appropriate title for this book might have been the Age of Edison, as it goes into more depth in setting the historical context for the light bulb's invention and the aftermath of Edison's success than it does in the actual details of the invention. Interesting facts are given about the Menlo Park complex, its lab, glass blowing house, photography studio, carpentry and blacksmith shops, as well as its library. Edison's humanitarian goals are highlighted. The information presented begs the reader to search for further details from other books that will fill in the gaps. Entries in the timeline for the age of invention give equal weight to the invention of chewing gum and Edison's first light bulb. It must be remembered that Edison said he did not fail six thousand times before he found the right filament, he succeeded. That's why he believed that invention was "one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." This book is part of the "What in the World" series. 2004, Creative Education, $28.50. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Sue Stefurak (Children's Literature).
Major Inventions Through History: The History of Everyday Life
If you've ever felt that life in the past may have held an inkling of enchantment, this informational text will certainly make you reconsider. As part of a series, this book traces the origins of a select group of utilities that have become everyday necessities including fireplaces, indoor plumbing, washing machines, food and clothes production and microwave ovens. The stories behind these appliances are sometimes comical and told in an appealing casual, conversational tone. Though each appliance story is different, the information is well-organized. The author does an excellent job relaying history in a fun, readable way. The pictures provided correspond well with the text and give the audience a good sense of the era in which the appliance was created. This type of book gives a young reader the chance to come out with some sense of an appreciation for what they have and successfully understand changes over time. This book could be used to provide a base for tracing history project. Equipped with a quick-read text, timelines, a glossary, an index and a citing on where to find further reading information this book warrants satisfaction. 2006, Twenty-First Century Books, Ages 10 to 13, $22.60. Reviewer: Tracy Riddle (Children's Literature).
Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor
Emily Arnold McCully
This is the story of a young girl gifted with an engineer's mind. From an early age, "Mattie" Knight begins sketching ideas into a notebook she labels "My Inventions." Her brothers call the sketches "brainstorms." For her brothers, Mattie makes toys with moving parts; for her mother, a poor widow, Mattie makes a foot warmer. Then she builds a kite so well designed that it soars high above the kites of the boys in town. They refuse to believe Mattie designed it, declaring, "A girl couldn't make that!" This is an echo Knight will hear throughout her career as an inventor. Knight's most famous invention is a machine that produces square-bottom paper grocery bags. This design is such a good idea, it is stolen! Though it takes all of her savings, Knight takes the thief to court. The thief declares, "Miss Knight could not possibly understand the mechanical complexities of the machine." But she proves him wrong, showing the judge the "brainstorms" she sketched in her notebook for two years. Winning the case, Knight becomes the first woman in U.S. history to obtain a patent. Readers will enjoy the conflict of this tale. The watercolor illustrations and design sketches nicely compliment the dialogue-filled text. 2006, Farrar Straus and Giroux, $16.00. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt (Children's Literature).
If necessity is the mother of invention, Margaret E. Knight might be called the mother of American inventors. Caldecott medalist Emily Arnold McCully celebrates Knight's intelligence, skill and persistence in Marvelous Mattie. This lively piece of historical fiction traces Knight's interest in things considered boyish in the 19th century and beyond the scope of the female brain. With her sketchbook and father's toolbox, Knight designed and built better jumping-jack toys, kites and sleds. When she went to work at age 12 in a Massachusetts textile mill, she invented a metal shuttle guard to help protect workers from injury. Even with 22 patents to her name, Knight is best remembered for her invention of a machine to make flat-bottomed paper bags. The latter part of the picture book focuses on a watershed moment in the career Knight forged for herself. When a man stole and patented her idea, Knight took him to court and proved her ownership with her sketchbook and a friend's testimony as to her hard work late into the night for two years. Knight then started her own paper bag-making business and, as a professional inventor, was dubbed "the Lady Edison." A marvelous book about an extraordinary woman. 2006, Farrar Straus and Giroux, $16.00. Ages 4 up. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children's Literature).
Mattie, who lived from 1838 to 1914, grew up in a family who didn't have money, but she never felt poor. She inherited her father's toolbox and filled her Maine home with inventions to make her family more comfortable. Mattie took her gift into the world and at twelve when she created an improved shuttle after a terrible factory accident occured at the textile mill where she worked. Probably her most well-known invention was the paper bag, an invention most of us take for granted. This picture book biography also provides an important window on the injustice of the era. Mattie fought to gain the rights to the patents she deserved, started a business to protect them, and came up with 90 original inventions and 22 patents to disprove the theory that women's brains were inadequate. 2006, Farrar Strauss Giroux, Ages 7 to 10, $16.00. Reviewer: Susie Wilde (Children's Literature).
Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, January 9, 2006; Cahners; United States
Nikola Tesla and the Taming of Electricity
Lisa J. Aldrich
Electrical engineer Nikola Tesla is the true father of the radio, but few of us recognize his name today. In fact, the Supreme Court revoked the patent for the radio given to Marconi and awarded it to Tesla eight months after his death. This well-researched biography provides the details of Tesla's life, his experiments and inventions, and his numerous personality quirks. The first chapter begins with Tesla's birth in Croatia in 1856. At age 26, Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field. Two years later, Tesla came to America and began his lengthy battle with Edison over electricity. Edison advocated for direct current, while Tesla promoted the use of alternating currency. Throughout his lifetime, Tesla invented numerous ways to generate, transport, and use electricity. Besides his brilliance, the book also describes Tesla unusual behaviors. For example, Tesla was terrified of germs and required 18 napkins for each meal. Also, he was fascinated with pigeons, feeding them and allowing them into his living quarters. The book includes numerous quotes from Tesla. It also has insets that explain some of the electrical-engineering concepts, such as types of currents and energy. The appendices include a timeline, a list of sources, a bibliography, and a list of web sites with additional information about Tesla and electricity. 2005, Morgan Reynolds Publishing, $24.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Lynn O'Connell (Children's Literature).
Rocket-Powered Science: Invent to Learn! Create, Build, & Test Rocket Designs!
Students will love the activities in this inexpensive little book. Student teams are encouraged to build, evaluate, and then redesign 16 model air-powered devices. They are encouraged to measure, record data, graph information, and report their results. There are instructions for making rockets powered by balloons, jets of air, water, pumps, and fizzing tablets. There are 30 demonstrations, ranging from simple straw popping to more complex carbide cannons. All models come with complete material lists, procedures, and explanations. In most cases the models are made from inexpensive or recycled materials that are free. Safety concerns are always listed. The best part of each model is the section entitled "Learning Moments." This section provides ideas for teachers to further engage and extend student experiences. These might address variables, measurements, or scaling. Embedded throughout the book are two small sections, "Rocket-Powered History" and "Rocket-Powered Applications." These short inserts are ideal for making these activities cross-curricular learning experiences. The activities outlined in this book allow students to acquire hands-on experiences recommended in the National Science Education Content Standards for physical science and technology in a way that fosters inquiry. At the end of the book there are references, websites, a brief glossary of key terms, and an index. I can't think of any student in the upper elementary to middle school age group who wouldn't jump at a chance to take learning to a higher level by building and launching rockets. This book creates a win-win situation for both students and teachers, and I strongly recommend it for every classroom teacher who wants his or her students to love science class. Grades 5-8. Keywords: Rockets, Science & Technology. 2006, Good Year Books, 106p, $14.95. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Adah Stock (National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)).
Science, Technology, and Society: The People Behind the Science
In our modern world it sometimes seems that if human beings can accomplish a scientific task, they must do so regardless of the ultimate costs involved. Think for a moment about the environmental price tag of unbridled development of all natural resources. Consider the cost of exterminating a particular species with no regard for their place in broader ecosystems. Ponder the pluses and minuses of full-blown human cloning options. In each of these instances there is a nexus between advancements in science, technological necessities, and social impact. This book provides biographical summaries of the lives of ten scientists whose work balanced the desire for pure research with the pragmatic social impact it could exert. Like other illustrated books that make up the "Pioneers in Science" series of which this volume is a part, this particular text summarizes the lives of ten leading scientists. Readers will encounter researchers such as Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, Rachel Carson, Guglielmo Marconi, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and others. In each of the biographical essays included in this insightful work, readers are afforded an opportunity to discover not only how these scientists lived but also what belief systems they applied to their research. This title is a fine addition to the library of any school or home where the study of science is valued. 2006, Chelsea House Publishers, $29.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck (Children's Literature).
Scientific American: Everything You Need for Simple Science Fair Projects Grades 3-5
Every parent's dream, this book provides eighteen simple science fair projects for use by eight-to-eleven-year olds as they enhance their understanding of scientific principles in the world around them. The introduction to the text makes specific recommendations for approaching the various projects-with the important reminder of the necessity of adult supervision liberally sprinkled throughout-and then provides sensible suggestions concerning safety issues. Another helpful part of the introduction specifies how to present the information disseminated through the various projects; data displays and tabletop displays with reports get a reasonable examination by the article. The author then provides the steps about how to do each experiment and what the expected result should be; background information and a secondary experiment are offered with each main project as set-aside boxes. Basic black-and-white pictures are provided to further illustrate some aspects of the projects. This book certainly provides a fundamental service, and for that reason, it is a definite must for all school libraries. 2006 Chelsea Clubhouse, Ages 8 to 11, $27.00. Reviewer: Jean Boreen (Children's Literature).
Something Out of Nothing
Carla Killough McClafferty
Biographer Carla Killough McClafferty takes a fresh look at Marie Curie, who with two Nobel prizes, might well be called the mother of female scientists. Something Out of Nothing takes young readers into the life and lab of Curie as she discovers the elements radium and polonium. Science was a family affair for the Curies. Marie's partner and staunch supporter until his tragic death was husband Pierre; and her scientist daughter, Irene, also won a Nobel. As the biography makes clear, Curie shrank from fame and was happiest working in her lab or spending time with immediate family. The book is rich in primary source material (period photos, copies of pages of her lab notebooks and excerpts from personal letters) and in details fascinating to kids. Young people will relish learning what happened in 1921 when Curie arrived in the United States to accept the gift of a gram of radium. So many people shook her hand that her arm was injured and had to be protected by a sling! 2006, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 9 up, $18.00. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children's Literature).
The telephone is an invention that most people take for granted, yet has affected the majority of people on the planet and, at times, changed the course of history. The author establishes just how important the telephone is in the opening chapter by explaining how the phone calls made to and from the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 most likely prevented that flight from taking out another targeted building. After a brief history of various ways people have communicated over the history of mankind (such as the Pony Express), the remainder of the book is dedicated to the steps various people took that resulted in the invention of what we now know as the telephone. Two chapters explain how Alexander Bell actually invented the telephone and two chapters explain the history of the telephone from its first introduction into society to recent years. An entire chapter is dedicated to "Telephone Culture," that is, how the telephone has affected society. The final chapter focuses on both the technology of and the effect that cell phones have had--and will most likely have--on societies around the world. This book not only accurately and clearly explains the workings of a telephone, but also makes the information relevant by citing stories and examples from today's world. 2006, Benchmark/Marshall Cavendish, $25.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Amie Rose Rotruck (Children's Literature).
Marc Tyler Nobleman
Part of the "Great Inventions" series, this title explains, in simple language, the development of the television from early technology to the plasma screen TV's of today. The author illustrates the progression of television from Farnsworth's image dissector and Zworykin's iconoscope and kinescope to the cathode-ray tubes which have been used for decades and are still used in some TV's today. However, liquid crystal displays (LCD's) and plasma displays are used in high definition televisions (HDTV's) instead of cathode ray tubes. Readers will enjoy seeing the size and shape of early televisions and learning how televisions work. It is also interesting to learn of the disputes between these two early inventors and how the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) had to pay Farnsworth for his ideas. Boxes throughout the text highlight interesting facts, such as when closed captioning was invented and then became available, and some of the originally considered names for TV: radiovision, radiovisor, and televisor. Making for interesting reading on their own, the timelines, glossary, hands-on exercise, and Internet sites at the back of this book make it very useful as an elementary school research text. 2005, Fact Finders/Capstone Press, $18.60. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Kathryn Erskine (Children's Literature).
Edison's life is the interesting tale of a young boy who learned the value of hard work and the importance of not giving in to failure and who grew up to become one of the most famous inventors in the world. Edison still holds the record for the number of patents registered with the United States Patents office and he is credited with the invention or improvement of numerous devices that are still in use today. Most of Hantula's look at Edison's life revolves around Edison's inventions and the development of his innovative research and development laboratories. Perhaps the most important aspect of Edison's life, however, was his disregard for possible failure. As many times as he was successful at something, he was three times more likely to fail, but he never allowed failure to stand in his way and managed to learn something each time he experienced failure or success. Hantula has provided an in-depth look at Edison's professional accomplishments, with brief glimpses of Edison's private life. Fully- illustrated with a glossary, a timeline of Edison's life, an index and additional sources to consult, this title is part of the "Trailblazers of the Modern World" series. 2005, World Almanac Library, $22.50. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Danielle Williams (Children's Literature).
Thomas Edison for Kids: His Life and Ideas: 21 Activities
An engaging introduction to the life and work of inventor Thomas Edison, this work invites the young YA to understand and emulate the concepts that preceded the first phonograph and light bulb. By glimpsing the honing of intellectual curiosity into a career, children acquire an understanding of the creation of practical devices from random thoughts and lab experiments. The text suggests ways of reliving Edison's scientific explorations; e.g., twirling a circlet on a string to make a thaumatrope and blending glue and starch into silly putty. Photos and diagrams reprise Edison's dynamo, ore separator, electric pen, and magic lantern. Contributing to the value of this work to teachers, home-schoolers, and librarians are a time line and lists of supply sources, websites, and books about inventions and inventors. Category: Nature, Ecology. KLIATT Codes: J--Recommended for junior high school students. 2006, Chicago Review Press, 147p. illus. bibliog. index., $14.95. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Mary Ellen Snodgrass (KLIATT Review, May 2006 (Vol. 40, No. 3))
Thomas Edison is best known for his 1879 invention of the incandescent light bulb. Yet most people might be surprised to learn that Edison also concocted a health elixir that contained peppermint, ether, and morphine and devised the first bug zapper from wire and pieces of tin foil. He courted his first and second wives in a geekily charming fashion using Morse code but rarely spent time at home with his family. His perseverance and strong work ethic paid off in fits and starts throughout his long life. He sold most of his stock in the Edison General Electric Company to fund his constantly running experiment laboratory and championed the direct current system, only to lose out to alternating current proponents. Carlson, author of Westward Ho (Chicago Review Press, 1996) and Colonial Kids (1997), turns out yet another approachable and educational work. Part biography, part science activity book, this resource will appeal to casual researchers and novice inventors. It contains a wealth of full-page primary source archival photographs, sidebars, and short biographical profiles of Edison's contemporaries, in addition to short and straightforward experiments. Although the science experiments are simple and use easily obtained materials, some readers may find the lack of diagrams daunting. There is often just one per activity. The book also may pose a cataloging challenge-should it sit with the biographies or with the science experiment books? Despite these small flaws, this book will be a valuable resource for units on electricity, communication, or inventors. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2006, Chicago Review Press, 160p.; Index. Illus. Photos. Biblio. Further Reading. Chronology., $14.95 Trade pb. Ages 11 to 14. Reviewer: Angelica Delgado (VOYA, February 2006 (Vol. 28, No. 6)).
The Top Ten Inventors
Illustrated by Steve Boulter and Jan Smith
"Who improved the steam engine?" Questions like this serve to introduce the author's pick of all-time great inventors in the quirky "Crafty Inventions" series (originally from Britain). Chances are that American kids will not think of Richard Trevithick, but the other nine are well-known, although Marie Curie did not invent radium--she discovered it--and was recognized as a chemist and physicist. After three pages each on such famed inventors as da Vinci, Gutenberg, Edison, Marconi, and the Wright brothers, a related craft project is introduced with a list of materials and illustrated directions. Except for a tiny battery-powered engine related to the work of Michael Faraday, projects in this title are non-working models, more art than science. It is hard to see how making a spooky skull mask can shed much light on how X-rays work, or how a crazy "big mouth" megaphone can explain the telephone. Cartoonlike illustrations of the inventors at work are amusing and attention getting, giving interested readers some idea of the inspiration and hard work that lead to significant achievement. Each title contains an extensive glossary and a warning that an adult may need to supervise the use of certain tools or materials. For those who love to tinker and like to know how things work, the series can definitely inspire more research into the results of human ingenuity and into the lives of some great and influential thinkers who have produced milestone technology we often take for granted. 2005, Picture Window, $26.60. Ages 9 to 13. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft (Children's Literature).
Illustrated by Steve Boulter and Jan Smith
Throughout history, humankind's wanderlust has never been limited to land. Ocean exploration has intrigued explorers and inventors from the first moment people realized that holding one's breath, even for a long time, just was not sufficient. This lively, fact-filled book traces the evolution of underwater exploration from the earliest diving helmets and suits to aqualungs to scuba (which stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) to submarines to streamlined battle ships to submersibles to remote-controlled ATV's to underwater saturation habitats. These underwater machines and the people who invented them are wonderfully illustrated with a mixture of photographs and detailed drawings as well as cartoon-like people. Especially compelling are the sense of discontent with the status quo and yearning for something better, and the remarkable problem-solving that has gone into underwater exploration. Along the way, readers will encounter some unfamiliar names--such as John Lethbridge (1715 and Augustus Siebe (1837) who both worked on diving suits. And then there are familiar names from our modern age: Jaques-Yves Cousteau who was instrumental in developing the aqualung and Robert Ballard, who successfully found and explored the Titanic with an ATV. Perhaps best of all are the "make and do" pages that have directions for making underwater divers, whale mobiles, deep sea creatures, porthole landscapes, Titanic models, bottle subs, a bubble dome and more. These are complicated projects, but the required materials are easy to find. The book includes an extensive glossary and index. For children who are fascinated with invention, problem-solving, and the history of ocean exploration, this book is a gem. 2005, Picture Window Books, $26.60. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Judy Crowder (Children's Literature).
The Wright Brothers
Jonatha A. Brown
As this biography unfolds, the tone of the words evokes awe and mystery and would be a perfect read aloud or alone for a second to fourth grader. The concepts presented capture the essential steps to their great invention. The author starts with Orv and Will at eight and twelve respectively and their love of gadgets, then emphasizes the support they received from their parents to fix things and ask questions. They published a weekly newspaper while Orville was still in his teens. These self-taught inventors progressed from gadgets to gliders and their creative drive and hard work is highlighted. The research the Wright brothers did on airfoils and propellers is presented simply and the complicated math and research on engines is omitted. The black and white historical photographs are well-chosen and enhance the text. A glossary and website list for additional information is included. Details that would be particularly interesting to this age group hook the reader in this title in the "People to Know" series. 2005, Weekly Reader, $19.33. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Sue Stefurak (Children's Literature).
The Wright Brothers
The Wright brothers were not the first who had the dream of flying. But they were the ones who proved it could be done when they launched their airplane from the sand dunes near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. "They done it! They done it!" yelled one of the men who had helped Wilbur and Orville that day. This well written account of the Wright brothers' lives is one of the "Compass Point Early Biographies," a series created "to introduce children to the lives of important historical personalities." Every page is illustrated with period photographs, engravings and drawings. The double spaced text and large print make this an attractive choice for younger or reluctant readers. Words that appear in bold type are defined in the glossary. At the end of the book the reader will find timeline of the Wright brothers' lives, a glossary, a "Did You Know" page listing interesting facts about the brothers, suggestions for finding out more and an index 2005, Compass Point Books, $21.26. Ages 7 to 9. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen (Children's Literature).
Illustrated by Lisa Thompson and Matthew Stapleton
When Luke and Sophie fly to the site of the Inventor's Challenge camp, little do they know what is in store for them. Groups of two are taken to different secret locations to meet great inventors. Then the teenagers have to design something inspired by what they have seen. A helicopter drops Luke and Sophie into a deserted camp in the forest. Immediately, however, a man rushes toward them, waving his arms. Professor Beezley is not a great inventor, but he knows the greatest inventor ever--Nature. The scientist shows the young inventors many examples of human inventions inspired by nature, such as the helicopter's design inspired by the dragonfly. After a day of scouting, Professor Beezley gives each of his students a backpack filled with binoculars, a notebook and pen, magnifying glasses, specimen jars, and a camera. So the twosome spend the next week observing and collecting, and writing notes. Finally, each has his own invention to create, and each learns that Nature does have many ideas to offer the inventor. In the back of the book, biomimicry is defined, and examples of inventions inspired by nature are given. It also gives the young scientist tips for starting on his own discovery into the natural world of inventions. This is Book 3 in the "Wonder Wits" series. 2006 (orig. 2004), Picture Window Books, $19.93. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Debbie West (Children's Literature).
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