January 17 marks the birthday of founding father and inventor Benjamin Franklin, as well as National Kid Inventors Day, so we thought it was a good time to motivate the young inventors at your house. Long after the day passes, your kids will be left with endless stories of creations from the past, and inspiration for inventions of their own.
by Barb Rosenstock; illustrated by Katherine Roy
(Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers, 2018)
This nonfiction picture book details the life and careers of lesser-known Otis Barton and William Beebe, the inventors of the Bathysphere, a spherical, deep-sea submersible object that was used to study undersea wildlife for the first time. Many challenges came up that Otis and Will had to solve during both the creation process and their undersea voyage, but in the end, they made history and lived to tell about it.
by Mike Barfield
(Crown Books for Young Readers, 2018)
They’re not kidding when they say destroy the book in the name of science—it’s packed with interesting things kids can cut out, color, and draw, as well as facts about important scientists. Young readers with busy hands can craft a miniature kite, a spinning top, a musical slide whistle, and many other creations from the book’s sturdy cardstock pages, all while learning about the science behind each object.
by Ruth Spiro; illustrated by Holly Hatam
(Dial Books, 2018)
Maxine loves making new things from old things, and she also loves her pet fish, Milton. “This is an enchanting story of a tenacious and unusual little girl who is determined to make some sort of contraption that will allow her pet fish Milton to partake in her school’s pet parade,” says Kim Barnes, teen/children’s collection development librarian for Jefferson County Public Library. After many tries, Maxine comes up with the right combination of odds and ends that will allow Milton to participate with the other pets.
by Chris Barton; illustrated by Don Tate
“Lonnie Johnson wasn’t just a NASA engineer, he also invented that summertime favorite: The Super Soaker!” says Patty Wright, youth services department head for Douglas County Libraries, who recommended this true story. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, the story shows that Lonnie’s life was also filled with a love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity from the beginning.
by Kim Tomsic; illustrated by Brett Helquist
(Chronicle Books, April 2019)
Boulder-based author Kim Tomsic tells the true story of how Les Paul created the world’s first solid-body electric guitar and other inventions that changed modern music. The story shows what someone can accomplish with a few tools and everyday objects, paired with great curiosity and perseverance.
by Jason Henry
(Sterling Children’s Books, 2018)
Long before the Wright Brothers, Joseph and Étienne Montgolfier worked together to invent the first hot-air balloon. “Even kiddos who aren’t reading yet will love to snuggle up and marvel at the pictures, and there’s enough science in the story to keep older readers engaged,” says Michelle Bakken, storytime specialist with Arapahoe Libraries. Author/illustrator/designer Jason Henry also includes a bibliography, list of further reading, and timeline of flight in this nonfiction picture book.
Librarians and book experts also recommend:
- The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
- Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts
- Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor by Laurie Wallmark; illustrated by Katy Wu
- Inventor McGregor by Kathleen T. Pelley; illustrated by Michael Chesworth
- Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood; illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
- The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation by Gilbert Ford
- The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving Into History (and others in the Epic Fails book series) by Ben Thompson and Erik Slater; illustrated by Tim Foley
- Usborne STEM Engineering Scribble Book by Eddie Reynolds & Darran Stobbart; illustrated by Petra Baan; designed by Emily Barden
- Mistakes That Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions & How They Came to Be by Charlotte Foltz Jones; illustrated by John O’Brien
- Calling All Minds: How To Think and Create Like An Inventor by Temple Grandin
- What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada; illustrated by Mae Besom
- Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker; illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
- Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe; illustrated by Barbara McClintock
- Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? by Tanya Lee Stone; illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
- Higher, Steeper, Faster: The Daredeveils Who Conquered the Skies by Lawrence Goldstone
- Robot by Roger Bridgman
- Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
- Maker Comics: Fix A Car! by Chris Schweizer
- Aliana Reaches for the Moon by Laura Roettiger; illustrated by Ariel Boroff
- The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke; illustrated by Van T. Rudd
- The Inventors at No. 8 by A.M. Morgen
- Enginerds by Jarrett Lerner