About the Holiday
Established in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine, this month-long holiday celebrates the imagination and talent of individuals who dare to think differently and create new products, services, and ways of doing things that make a positive contribution to the world. To join in, enjoy your favorite new inventions, and if you harbor dreams of being an inventor—on a large or small scale—look for opportunities to share your ideas.
Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas
Written by Anne Ameri-Siemens | Illustrated by Becky Thorns
When you jump in the car or turn on a lamp, the idea that these were someone’s inventions (and even the names Henry Ford and Thomas Edison) may flash through your mind. But what about when you slurp up delicious Raman noodles, watch your pet fish through the aquarium glass, or squeeze out the last bit of toothpaste in the tube? In Who Invented This? Anne Ameri-Siemens introduces young readers to the brilliant minds behind some of the things we use every day.
Take bicycles, for instance. You’ve probably seen pictures of those old bikes with a huge front wheel and a tiny back wheel. Was this the first bike? Not at all! Ameri-Siemens reveals that the first bicycle—called a “running machine”—had two wheels but didn’t have pedals. Invented by Karl von Drais in 1817, it had a steering bar in the front and was powered by the rider sitting on the seat and “running along the ground.” It may seem comical, but this invention led to more and more improvements until Pierre Michaux designed the first bike with pedals in the 1860s. You can read about all of the advancements in bikes and the other products it inspired too.
As long as we’re talking about things that transport people here and there, have you ever thought about what drivers did before there were modern traffic lights? While the idea of indicating “stop” and “go” in red and green is universal across the world, the use of yellow for the transition came later from American policeman William Potts. “The first traffic lights in the world were built in London in 1868.” But they weren’t automatic. A policeman standing in the road had to move arms up and down to regulate the flow of traffic. “At night the arms were lit up in red and green.” Readers will find out more about how traffic lights progressed as well as how the timing of stop and go is controlled.
Sometimes inventors get their ideas from nature—this is called bionics—and kids will learn how George de Mestral was ingeniously inspired by those sticky burrs that cling to socks to create a product most of them use all the time. There are other everyday products that are so important that they were invented long, long, long ago. One of these? Toothpaste! While Washington Sheffield invented the first smooth paste in 1850 by adding glycerin to the powder then used—“a mixture of pumice stone, powdered marble, grated oyster shells, ashes, peppermint oil or sage, and some soap power”—and his son realized the toothpaste could be packed in tubes like artists’ paints instead of sold in foil bags, prehistoric humans also brushed their teeth. Kids will be fascinated to learn more about the history of this morning and nighttime routine and even examples from the animal kingdom.
Readers will be excited to learn about these inventions and many more that make up the fabric of our everyday lives and were conceived by talented inventors, scientists, and engineers. Some are the result of teamwork while some are the product of many years spent alone in a laboratory or even simply chance. In all, kids learn about 34 inventions that fall into diverse categories from transportation to communications, clothing to food, music to science and high-tech marvels.
Anne Ameri-Siemens’ conversational and engaging text will captivate readers interested in learning about how the world they know came to be. Ameri-Siemen’s storytelling beautifully balances the scientific and personal details of each invention to deliver compelling profiles. Interesting asides on each page reveal more about the inventions and the people who created them.
Accompanying each subject are Becky Thorns’ eye-catching illustrations that depict not only the invention but its creator or creators as well as how it is used or where it can be found. Thorns also employs clever ways to connect images on a page-spread that reinforcing their purpose and history. Each page spread offers plenty of ideas to spur research projects or extended lessons for classrooms and homeschoolers.
Packed with information on products, ideas, world-changing inventions, and the brilliant minds behind them, Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas will fascinate kids and spark an interest in further research, science, engineering, and technical studies. The book is highly recommended for young inventors, history buffs, and other creative thinkers as well as for classrooms and school and public library collections.
Ages 9 – 12 and up
Little Gestalten, 2021 | ISBN 978-3899551334
To learn more about Becky Thorns, her books, and her art, visit her website.
National Inventor’s 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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