Harper, Charise Mericle. 2011. Imaginative Inventions: The who, what, where, when, and why of roller skates, potato chips, marbles, and pie and more!
New York: Little Brown.
Cherise Mericle Harper is the author of the very popular Just Grace
and Fashion Kitty
series, as well as one of my personal favorites, Pink Me Up.
In Imaginative Inventions
, she turns her talented hand to nonfiction.
In 3-6 paragraph rhymes, she features the history of fourteen inventions, including doughnuts, high-heeled shoes, eyeglasses and animal cookies. The "Piggy Bank" was a particularly interesting invention,
In the Middle Ages
pots were made from pygg.
It was an orange clay
that wasn't hard to dig.
When someone had some money
to save or hide away,
they kept it in their pygg jar
for a future rainy day.
Some potter probably said,
after giving it some thought,
"What if I take my fine pygg clay
and make a pig-shaped pot?"
Well, soon the other potters
who formed and shaped the clay
were making jars in piggy shapes
just like they do today.
Humorous, brightly-colored acrylic paintings accompany each entry, and are a mixture of folk art, caricature and comic styles. The double spread illustrations are framed on three sides by a quilt motif of related illustrations (shoes, doughnuts, etc.) and the fourth side has a border featuring facts - Who, Where, When, and more.
Sources are not included, however, Imaginative Inventions
is not intended as a research tool, but more as a source of fun or an introduction to inventions. Many teachers assign projects on inventors. This would be a fun read-aloud to inspire further investigation.Visit Cherise Mericle's great website!
(I can't wait to see her upcoming book If Waffles Were Like Boys
- what a great title!)
Another review @ Rasco from RIF
Raise your hand if you, or your children, or your grandchildren, have ever owned - or played with - one of these, in some form or other:Did you raise your hand? You know you did, and so did I, and so did a whole boatload of other folks. In fact, millions of kids - and former kids - have had a blast playing with this most versatile toy. And on May 1st, we all have the perfect excuse to play again, because that's the anniversary of the the day, back in 1952, when Mr. Potato Head was first released for sale. The original toy was quite different from the one sold today:Invented by George Lerner, who eventually sold his idea to Hasbro, Inc., Mr. Potato Head cost 98 cents when he made his debut. The set came with 28 pieces, including: eyes, ears, noses, hands, feet, mouths, hats, eyeglasses, felt facial hair, and a tobacco smoking pipe. It had everything an imaginative kid would need to create all manner of silly potato heads, save one thing: the potato. Kids had to convince Mom and Dad to hand over a real spud to be able to play with the toy. It wasn't until 1964 that the iconic plastic potato was included in Mr. Potato Head sets.From those humble beginnings, Mr. Potato Head has thrived, becoming a toy with significant staying power, and quite an interesting history:On April 30, 1952, Mr. Potato Head became the first toy ever to be advertised on television, and was marketed directly to children (also a first).In 1985, Mr. Potato Head received four write-in votes in the Boise, Idaho mayoral election.
The Day-Glo Brothers: the true story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s bright ideas and brand-new colors by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani
I am always on the look-out for books that offer a great story combined with nonfiction. This book definitely has that. Even better, it offers a tangible example of invention that children can relate to and understand. Joe and Bob were not similar brothers. Bob enjoyed working and planning while Joe preferred magic tricks and problem-solving. The two made the perfect inventing pair. After Bob suffered an accident and was limited to living in the family’s basement, Joe joined him there to practice using fluorescence in his magic tricks. The two worked together and created glow-in-the-dark paints. After years of success, they found that with some tweaking they could create paints that glowed even in broad daylight – day-glo colors.
The book is written in a style that is inviting and intelligent. It offers lots of background information on the brothers, understanding that part of the fascination is with the inventors themselves along with their flashy colors. The illustrations work to great effect with their vintage advertising style and effective use of bright colors.
A great biographical nonfiction picture book about an accessible subject, this book will be snatched off of shelves for the cover alone. Add it to bibliographies about inventors and children will be thrilled to have such a youthful title to use for reports. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by Abby the Librarian with author features on Cynsations and 7 Imp. You can also visit Chris Barton’s own blog.
Recently my sixth graders began researching ancient civilizations, and one topic which seemed to excite them was the inventions created thousands of years that we still use today. That's not surprising; children, after all, are born creators. So what better way to end the school year than by giving students opportunities to be artists and inventors? Recommended Books
The best way to get students excited about invention is to provide loads of fabulously illustrated books on the topic. One of my new favorites is A Native American Thought of It: Amazing Inventions and Innovations
, by Rocky Landon and David MacDonald (Annick Press). By now we all know that moccasins, canoes, and snow shoes were invented by Native Americans, but how many of us knew that these amazingly adaptive people also created syringes, diapers, and hockey? This inviting book contains lots of awesome pictures and just enough information to get students hooked.
Equally exciting is the companion book The Inuit Thought of It: Amazing Arctic Innovations
by Alootook Ipellie and David MacDonald (Annick Press). In a land where it rarely gets above freezing, and much of each apart of the year is spent in either 24 hour darkness or light, you need to be pretty clever in order to survive with the limited resources nature provides. In addition to being fantastic reads for an invention theme, both of these picture books fit in well with the theme of survival.
Invention, of course, goes beyond rudimentary survival. Later scientists and inventors would seek to improve upon the ways that people live and work. Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace
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Kulling, Monica. 2010. All Aboard! Elijah McCoy’s Steam Engine
. Ill. by Bill Slavin. Ontario, CA: Tundra.
One of the things that I love about reviewing children’s nonfiction is the number of new things that I learn every day. Today I learned a little-known, but interesting and inspirational life story, as well as an interesting tidbit of etymology, the origin of the phrase “the real McCoy.”
Get on Board!
we hear our conductor
the song she uses
to let us know
now is the time
to get on board...
the midnight train
we hide and pray
not to be found
we risk our lives
to stay on board...
So begins All Aboard!
But All Aboard!
is not the story of the Underground Railroad, rather it is the culmination of the Underground Railroad's greater purpose - a self-determined, productive life, lived out in freedom. Elijah McCoy was the son of slaves who escaped to Canada on the Underground Railroad. His determined and hardworking parents saved enough money to send Elijah to school overseas, where he studied to become a mechanical engineer.
He returned in 1866 to join his family in Michigan. Though he may have been free, his opportunities were not equal. Despite his education, he was only able to secure work as an "ashcat," feeding coal into the firebox of a steam engine for the Michigan Central Railroad,
What a letdown! Elijah knew engines inside and out. He knew how to design them. He knew how to build them. He also knew the boss didn't think much of him because he was Black. But Elijah needed work, so he took the job.
Still, Elijah persevered in his job while his mind, trained in engineering, sought to find a solution to the miserable job of "grease monkey," the boys (including Elijah) who oiled all of a train's gears when they frequently seized up due to friction and lack of lubrication. Trains of the time were typically stopped every half hour or so for greasing. After several years, Elijah invented (and patented) an oil cup, which was used successfully to keep the trains running. Travel by train became faster, safer, and more efficient. He continued to invent throughout his life, eventually filing 57 patents! Others tried to copy Elijah McCoy's oil cup, but none were able to match his success.
When engineers wanted to make sure they got the best oil cup, they asked for the real McCoy.All Aboard! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine
is an obscure but inspiring story, made particularly poignant by the juxtaposition of his parents' Underground Railroad experience, and his own experience working for the Michigan Central Railroad. The dialogue is invented and there are no references cited, however, the engaging story is simply told in a manner that makes complex topics like the inventive process and racism accessible to young readers. All Aboard!
is short enough that it can easily be read aloud to a classroom or storytime for older children.
The book's pen and watercolor illustrations are colorful, and full of life and expression; the reverse side of the dust jacket doubles as poster. The cov