Heroes of Invention

Inventors have been the talk of the town lately thanks to TIME's feted annual Best Inventions issue, released last week. We hop on the bandwagon with three picture-book biographies showcasing formulators and their innovations. Find more related books and articles from Hbook.com here; or click the Inventions and Inventors subject tag in the Horn Book Guide/Reviews Database.

Hoyt, Megan Kati's Tiny Messengers: Dr. Katalin Karikó and the Battle Against COVID-19

40 pp. | HarperCollins/Quill Tree | October, 2023 | Trade ISBN 978-0-06-321662-4 $19.99

Illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger. Growing up in straitened circumstances in Hungary, 2023 Nobel Prize winner Katalin Karikó's imagination and obsession with science stoked her interest in the intricate workings of the human body. Hoyt's somewhat lengthy narrative follows Karikó as she works her way to university academia, makes a difficult move to the United States, indefatigably researches the use of messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules to treat and prevent disease, and ultimately co-invents the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Supported by her husband and by Dr. Drew Weissman, a colleague, Karikó weathers pushback from the scientific community and overcomes language and financial barriers. Hazy mixed-media illustrations in scumbled colors counterpoint Karikó's meticulousness and stick-to-itiveness. Back matter elaborates on the biochemistry of the COVID-19 vaccine and includes a timeline and list of Karikó's fellow researchers.

Liu, Shan Woo & Kaili Liu Gormley Masked Hero: How Wu Lien-teh Invented the Mask That Ended an Epidemic

32 pp. | Candlewick/MIT Kids | October, 2023 | Trade ISBN 978-1-5362-2898-4 $18.99

Illustrated by Lisa Wee. Liu, herself a physician, traces the life of her great-grandfather, Wu Lien-teh, often touted as the father of modern medicine in China. Readers relive his childhood — one of material lack but intellectual vitality — in British colonial Malaysia, follow his scholarly tracks to the upper echelons of Europe's medical fraternity, then witness his incipient medical practice and relocation to China. There, Lien-teh leverages his bacteriology expertise to help change the course of the Manchurian pneumonic plague of 1910, designing a lifesaving surgical face mask, precursor to today's N95 respirator. Liu's straightforward, if wordy, text shows Lien-teh withstanding the headwinds of racism and peer skepticism and charts the legacy of his epidemiological breakthrough. Wee's digital illustrations revel in earth tones, underscoring Lien-teh's equanimity and groundedness. Back matter includes a timeline, author's note, and bibliography.

Mazeika, Katie Beulah Has a Hunch! : Inside the Colorful Mind of Master Inventor Beulah Louise Henry

40 pp. | Simon/Beach Lane | October, 2023 | Trade ISBN 978-1-66590-363-9 $18.99

Mazeika reconstructs the life and imagination of Beulah Louise Henry, one of the twentieth century's most prolific inventors. A white neurodiverse North Carolinian girl with no formal education, her bent for invention materialized early, bumping up against the gender ideals of her parents and Victorian society. Narrativizing Henry's laborious quest to realize one of her earliest patented inventions — a parasol with snap-on, swappable fabric covers — the no-frills text sees her improvising her own prototyping process, gaining entrée into the male-dominated world of manufacturing, and taking the department-store market by storm. Numerous subsequent inventions earn her the status of a media darling and the sobriquet "Lady Edison." Harmonious digital illustrations capture the era and emotional undercurrents. A quiz-ready biography, archival photos, and facsimiles of Henry's patent drawings comprise the back matter.


Summer Edward

Horn Book Consulting Editor Summer Edward is a Trinidadian American author, children’s book editor, educator, K-12 literacy specialist, Caribbean children’s and YA literature advocate, and commentator on books for young readers. She holds an M.S.Ed. degree in Reading, Writing, Literacy from the University of Pennsylvania and founded Anansesem, an online magazine that for 10 years covered Caribbean children’s and YA literature. She has written for Kirkus ReviewsSchool Library JournalThe Horn BookWOW Stories: Connections from the ClassroomLiteracy Dailysx salon, KidLit TV, the Commonwealth Education Trust, Social Justice Books, and more. Learn more about her work at www.summeredward.com.

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