About the Holiday
The onset of spring with its wide-open sunny days seems to beckon to us to open our minds to all sorts of new possibilities. Perhaps that’s why International Ideas Month is celebrated in March. This creative holiday invites would-be inventors and clever folk of all stripes to think differently and pay attention to your brainstorms. You never know––there may be a book, a work of art, a new invention, or a solution to a need inside you just waiting to be let out!
I received a copy of The Story of Inventions from Frances Lincoln Books for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
The Story of Inventions: A First Book about World-Changing Discoveries
Written by Catherine Barr and Steve Williams | Illustrated by Amy Husband
It might be said that inventions have been around as long as there was a need. But which invention really got things rolling? That would be the wheel, and that’s where The Story of Inventions begins. The wheel dates back to the Bronze Age––3500 BCE. Laid flat, stone wheels helped potters make pots faster and in different shapes. Wheels for vehicles took longer to be developed.
Once horse-drawn chariots came into being, though, what was one of the first things they were used for? “They bumped across Asia to Egypt, where they carried Egyptian archers into war.” The Romans built roads and suspension and smoothed out the ride. Eventually, rubber tires were invented, highways were built, and tires thick, thin, threaded, large, and small “roll around Earth and rove off-road on Mars.”
Today’s GPS can be traced back to 270 BCE with the invention of the lodestone compass in China. China was also the place where paper had its beginning under a mulberry tree. This first paper, invented in 105 AD, was a messy concoction of mulberry bark mashed up and combined with rags and water. Pressed flat and dried, this early paper was used for wrapping and for writing. Today, of course, paper is used for our newspapers, artwork, and even this book.
Telling time by sundial used to rely on the weather, but as bigger and better clocks were invented—beginning in 725 CE and using some pretty amazing technology—it became easier and easier to make it to school, to the office, to meet friends…. Now there are atomic clocks that, in space, are so accurate they lose “only a second every 15 billion years.” In 850 CE, gunpowder was invented by mistake, but it changed the face of war forever.
Jumping ahead to 1712, “water, wind, and horse power” were replaced when the invention of the coal-powered steam engine revolutionized transportation and how and where people worked. “Today coal and oil still power most electricity on Earth. But these fossil fuels are polluting our skies, so sun, water, and wind are once again being used to help us survive this threatening climate change.”
The invention of vaccinations in 1798, computers in the 1830s, electricity in 1832, the telephone in 1876, the automobile in 1886, and the airplane in 1903, bring us to 1907 and the invention of plastic. With its many traits and uses, plastic “quickly became one of the most useful materials people had ever seen.” But now plastic is “piling up, polluting and poisoning the planet. By recycling and other measures, “we can help wildlife and protect the environment too.”
As World War II raged in 1945, scientists discovered how to split the atom, leading to the development of the nuclear bomb. “Just two nuclear bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people in Japan at the end of World War II. These explosions shocked the world and people everywhere marched for peace to ban the bomb.” Today efforts to keep the world safe from nuclear weapons continues. The relatively recent invention of the internet and today’s focus on nanotechnology are changing the world every day. How will we use them “to care for each other and the planet Earth? One day you may decide.”
A glossary of words used throughout the book follows the text.
Focusing on revolutionary inventions, how they work, and what effect they have had on the earth instead of particular inventors, Catherine Barr and Steve Williams weave together a fast-paced survey of life-changing technologies throughout history. Brief descriptions of each invention follow its trajectory from its development date through improvements over time to today’s version. Fascinating nuggets of information are found within each account and will entice readers to learn more. But this book contains more than just a list of inventions. The thread of a cautionary tale also runs through the text, engaging readers to think not only about how inventions can positively change the world but also to consider their deleterious effects. Highlighting new innovation, Barr and Williams offer the promise of new innovation and invite readers to lend their creativity and voice to finding solutions.
Through her charming cartoon illustrations Amy Husband takes readers from Bronze Age brick buildings to the surface of Mars, with tours past the Roman Colosseum, down dusty hoof-trodden lanes, along four-lane highways, and even with a pitstop at an electric car charging station. Her ship captains from various eras navigate by the stars, a lodestone, a compass, and GPS. Husband’s detailed images help readers envision early versions of inventions and how they have changed over time as well as the problems that precipitated some inventions. In the case of pollution, plastics, war, and climate change, Husband depicts examples of both the causes and how people are trying to make things better.
Offering a dual way for readers at home and in the classroom to learn about and from inventions of the past and today, The Story of Inventions will spark discussions on and further research into the innovations that have influenced and made modern times.
Ages 5 – 8
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711245365
Discover more about Catherine Barr and her books on her website.
To learn more about Amy Husband, her books, and her art, visit her website.
International Ideas Month Activity
Share Your Bright Idea! Page
Do you sometimes have a lightbulb moment when an idea seems just right? Use this printable Share Your Bright Idea! Page to write about or draw your idea!
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Picture Book Review