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Otis and Will Discover The Deep photo courtesy Little, Brown and Company; Destroy This Book in the Name of Science! photo courtesy Penguin Random House Made By Maxine photo courtesy Penguin Random House; Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions photo courtesy Charlesbridge; Guitar Genius photo courtesy Chronicle Books; Up & Away! How Two Brothers Invented the Hot-Air Balloon photo courtesy Sterling Publishing

Books to Inspire Young Inventors

Recommendations from local librarians and book experts.

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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.

Otis and Will Discover The Deep

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.

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Destroy This Book in the Name of Science! 

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.

Made By Maxine 

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.

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

by Chris Barton; illustrated by Don Tate
(Charlesbridge, 2016)

“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.

Guitar Genius

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.

Up & Away! How Two Brothers Invented the Hot-Air Balloon

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.

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