Invention Books

We’ve been taking a break from our usually experiment heavy science this summer.  However, I didn’t want to give up science altogether, so we’ve been working our way through a pile of books about inventions, inventors, and how things work.  I thought this would be a nice way to back up some of the ideas about energy, forces and waves that we introduced over the course of the year in science.

So You Want to Be an Inventor by Judith St. George and David Small
A cute and short introduction to various inventors and invention approaches through the ages.  The book jumps around in time and theme to show different ways inventors have found success.  After reading it, BalletBoy immediately wanted to invent something, which turned out to be a shoe made of paper and spaghetti.

The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
This book is so famous, it hardly needs an introduction.  Macaulay’s intricate illustrating style is at its most adorable in this volume, which explains with illustrations and easy to understand text about how common inventions work.  The book goes from simple machines to much more complex inventions like nuclear power plants and movie cameras.

See Inside: How Things Work
Usborne’s See Inside series is one of the few little text box book formats we actually really enjoy.  There’s just something so pleasing about opening a little flap in a book to see what’s behind it.  The topics covered in this book aren’t as wide ranging as the rest of these books (after all, when you have board book thick pages and a squishy cover, you’re limited to less pages) but this whole series has been a winner at our house, so I feel remiss not mentioning it.

What a Great Idea by Stephen M. Tomecek
This is a slightly wordy book that covers all kinds of inventions through the ages, beginning with things like letters and farming.  Everything is arranged chronologically with each invention getting two pages.  The illustrations are a little lackluster, but I really like the way the book is laid out.  Each invention gets a “how it works,” “impact” and “children of this invention” summary, which is wonderfully organized and well thought out.  This would be a great book to have on hand as a supplement for world history.

Accidents May Happen: Fifty Inventions Discovered by Mistake by Charlotte Foltz Jones
I have to raise a serious quibble with calling peanut brittle or the crack in the Liberty Bell an “invention,” but otherwise, I liked the lighthearted tone of this book and the little cartoon illustrations.  It’s not the best book about inventions, and it doesn’t make such a good straight through read, but it’s nice to dip into and read an entry or two to see that inventing isn’t always a straightforward process.

How Nearly Everything Was Invented by Jilly MacLoud
This book has an interesting format.  The illustrations and style will probably remind you of an Usborne book.  There are lots of tiny cartoonish drawings crammed into every corner.  It’s almost like a page of Where’s Waldo.  Each two page spread covers a different theme, such as travel or optics.  The pages then open up to reveal an interior four page spread.  Pages in between cover things like famous inventors or timelines of inventions.  I’m often not a big fan of nonfiction books with lots of tiny bits of disjointed text on the page (like DK’s Eyewitness Books, which I don’t think much of).  However, I really liked the thematic approach to inventions and the style of this book was very appealing.

Three Cheers for Inventors! by Marcia Williams
Marcia Williams has an offbeat cartoon style, with lots of humorous comments and sidebars.  These books are definitely for fans of the Horrible Science books style humor.  In this book, she covers many of the world’s most famous inventors and their various inventions with intricate cartoons.  Note that this book seems to have two editions with different titles, something I’m still trying to figure out.

2 thoughts on “Invention Books

  1. Hooray! We actually have some of these at our library…I’m especially pleased to read a review of the Marcia Williams book…I think it will go down well with my obsessed-with-Horrible-Histories-child…

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