Subscribe to The Horn Book

Interesting invention stories

Allman, Toney  Women Scientists and Inventors
Middle school, high school     80 pp.     ReferencePoint

Collective Biographies series. Following a brief introduction describing historical obstacles to women’s careers in sciences, this volume profiles six successful women and their rise to influence. Each fairly short bio narrates the ups and downs of its subject’s career, and most paint the woman as an encouraging role model. Photographs, sidebars, and pull-quotes liven up the dense, textbook-like presentations. Reading list, websites. Ind.
Subject: Collective Biographies; Women—Biographies; Scientists; Women—Scientists; Inventions and inventors; Women—Inventors

Barton, Chris  Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
Gr. K–3, 4–6     40 pp.     Charlesbridge

Illustrated by Don Tate. Barton follows African American inventor Johnson, from his childhood tinkering through winning first place at a 1968 science fair, attending Tuskegee Institute, engineering for NASA, and developing a super-blast water gun. Barton describes Johnson’s setbacks and triumphs before he finally sold his Super Soaker to a toy company, but the straightforward text has a generally upbeat, you-can-do-it attitude. Clear digital illustrations with time-period-appropriate details help situate readers.
Subjects: Individual Biographies; Alabama; Inventions and inventors; African Americans; Johnson, Lonnie; Engineering

Ford, Gilbert  The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Atheneum

Illustrated by Gilbert Ford. Photographs by Greg Endries. In 1943, naval engineer Richard James brought home a walking torsion spring. With some entrepreneurial risk-taking and clever marketing, he and his wife, Betty, transformed his discovery into a toy sensation, the Slinky. Engaging illustrations — photographed dioramas posing digital art with found objects — resemble period advertisements, while the text effectively distills the excitement of the enterprising invention for young audiences. Bib.
Subjects: Individual Biographies; James, Betty; James, Richard T.; Inventions and inventors; Toys

Miller, Pat  The Hole Story of the Doughnut
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Houghton

Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch. According to legend and the old tar himself, in 1847 Captain Gregory made history when he used a pepper canister to remove the hard-to-cook centers of indigestible cakes known as “sinkers.” The playful, cartoony illustrations, a game of cutout circles themselves, match the folksy telling, and both author and artist clearly had fun with their sweet subject. An author’s note contains additional quirky facts. Timeline. Bib.
Subjects: Individual Biographies; Cookery; Food; Sailors; Inventions and inventors; Vehicles—Ships; Bakers and baking

Rhatigan, Joe  Inventions That Could Have Changed the World but Didn’t
Gr. 4–6     80 pp.     Charlesbridge/Imagine

Illustrated by Anthony Owsley. This amusing book surveys hundreds of dubious inventions, from a car whistle to signal low fuel to a wearable plastic tent to keep a dog dry during rainfall. It’s loosely organized by function, with illustrations ranging from black-and-white patent diagrams to whimsical, colorful cartoons. Some well-known inventors’ failures are included (e.g., Edison’s concrete house). Bib., ind.
Subjects: Machines and Technology; Inventions and inventors

From the January 2018 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

Share
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*