When my son was three, he would gasp at pretty much everything he’d see and ask, “How did they make that?” The answer was never easy, so we turned to books about building things to help us. These titles will inspire your kids, too, whether you have a STEAM-concept lover, a questioner, or one who gets impatient with building processes.
by Kobi Yamada; illustrated by Elise Hurst (Compendium, 2020)
From the author of The New York Times Best Seller, What Do You Do with An Idea? comes a book for any person who has tried to build something that didn’t quite turn out the way they hoped. A boy watches a sculptor, doubts himself, then finally tries to sculpt, with many failures along the way. The sculptor tells him: [Failure] shows us how something can’t be done, which means we are a little closer to finding out how it can.
by Lisa Wheeler; illustrated by Loren Long (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021)
Explore the many types of work needed to build things, from a bridge to a wind farm to an amusement park. A favorite of Tattered Cover Book Store and Boulder Public Library staff, the story pays tribute to those who come with the ideas and designs as well as those who do the physical labor.
by Jonathan Bean (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013)
Follow the story of a modern-day family that moves from the city to the country to build a house for themselves. Mom, Dad, the kids, and their extended family all work together, and little by little, the house gets built. It’s the author’s retelling of his own family’s experience, including photos from his collection.
by Pip Jones; illustrated by Sara Ogilvie (Peachtree Publishing, 2020)
Izzy Gizmo gets a special invitation to the invention convention. The challenge is to make a machine, and the winner gets to be a member of the Genius Guild. The process doesn’t go as planned and there is drama along the way, but in the end, Izzy’s Tool-Fix-Recycle-O-Matic is declared the winner.
by Chris Van Dusen (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019)
Through rhyming text, Jack describes to his teacher Miss Jane what school would be like if he built it: Right off the lobby, to get to your class, I’d set up a system of tubes made of glass. You hop in a pod, press the number, then ZOOM! In under ten seconds, you’re right at your room. Also available from the same author is If I Built a House.
by Brenda Maier; illustrated by Sonia Sánchez (Scholastic Press, 2018)
Ruby gets no help from her three brothers when she decides to build a fort (they don’t think she can build, anyway), so she learns how to build one all by herself. When she’s finished, the brothers want to play in the fort, so they get to work adding decorative touches to make it up to Ruby. “Hopefully all kids will be inspired to build their own fort, even if it’s just a blanket or a couple of chairs,” says Scholastic Book Fair Consultant Lici McCuistion, who recommends the book, along with Denver Public Library children’s librarians. Also check out the author and illustrator’s newly released companion book, The Little Blue Bridge.
Librarians and book experts also recommend:
- Demolition by Sally Sutton; illustrated by Brian Lovelock
- Dreaming Up by Christy Hale
- Everything You Need for a Treehouse by Carter Higgins; illustrated by Emily Hughes
- Princesses Can Fix It! by Tracy Marchini; illustrated by Julia Christians
- Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by James E. Ransome
- Billions of Bricks by Kurt Cyrus
- Building by Elisha Cooper
- Monkey with a Tool Belt by Chris Monroe
- Fort Building Time by Megan Wagner Lloyd; illustrated by Abigail Halpin
- Old MacDonald Had a Woodshop by Lisa Shulman; illustrated by Ashley Wolff
- Brick by Brick by Heidi Woodward Sheffield
- Mighty Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Dusky Rinker; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
- Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall
- Whose Tools? by Toni Buzzeo; illustrated by Jim Datz
- Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts
- How a House is Built by Gail Gibbons
- A Fort on the Moon by Maggie Pouncey; illustrated by Larry Day
- The Thingity-Jig by Kathleen Doherty, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
- The One Day House by Julia Durango; illustrated by Bianca Diaz
- Ruby’s Sword by Jacqueline Veissid; illustrated by Paola Zakimi
- Hum and Swish by Matt Myers
- Box by Min Flyte; illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
- Blocks byIrene Dickson
- With My Hands by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
- How Things Work by Conrad Mason; illustrated by Colin King
- Smashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha; illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
- How To Code a Rollercoaster by Josh Funk; illustrated by Sara Palacios
Trying: Compendium Inc.; Someone Builds the Dream, If I Built a School: Penguin Random House. Building Our House: Macmillan. Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention: Peachtree Publishing Company. The Little Red Fort: Scholastic. Background: Emilija Manevska/Getty Images.