February 11 – National Inventors’ Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday recognizes the spirit of inventors—those women and men, girls and boys who look at life just a little bit differently and not only imagine the “what if?” but make it happen. Inventors come from all backgrounds and with all different kinds of experience. Today, we celebrate those pioneers of the past, present, and future! If you have a creative mind, today’s the day to tinker around with your idea. Inventions don’t always haave to change the world. Have a better way of organizing your closets, a new game to play with your pet, or a new recipe to use the leftovers in the fridge? Go for it—and be proud of yourself!

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

By Rachel Ignotofsky

 

“Nothing says trouble like a woman in pants.” With this revealing attitude from the 1930s, Rachel Ignotofsky introduces her scintillating biographies of 50 intelligent, self-confident, persevering, and inspiring women working in engineering, math, medicine, psychology, geology, physics, astronomy, and more sciences from ancient history through today. The book begins with Hypatia who lived in Greece in the late 300s to early 400s CE and became an expert in astronomy, philosophy,and mathematics, making “contributions to geometry and number theory.” She became one of Alexandria’s first female teachers, “invented a new version of the hydrometer,” and can be found among the intellects in Raphael’s painting “The School of Athens.”

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Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

Zipping ahead to 1647 readers find Maria Sibylla Merian, considered one of the “greatest scientific illustrators of all time.” Her specialty was entomology. By carefully documenting the lifespan of butterflies, she taught people about the science of metamorphosis, publishing a book on the subject filled with notes and illustrations in 1679. Later she scoured the rainforests of South America, gathering information on never-before-seen insects from that region. Her book, The Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname “was published in 1705 and became a hit all over Europe.” Maria was so famous, her picture appeared on German money and stamps.

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Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

Other women in the nature sciences include Mary Anning, who as a child discovered the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton and went on to become a paleontologist; Mary Agnes Chase, a botanist and expert on grasses; Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, who as a conservationist helped save the Florida Everglades; and Joan Beauchamp Procter, a zoologist specializing in reptiles who discovered the Peninsula Dragon Lizard in 1923; and more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-women-in-science-marie-curie

Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

One of the earliest women astronomers and mathematicians was Wang Zhenyi, born in China in 1768. Creating her own eclipse model, she proved her advanced “theories about how the moon blocks our view of the sun—or the earth blocks the sun’s light from reaching the moon—during an eclipse.” She also measured the stars and explained the rotation of the solar system. At the age of 24 she published the 5-volume Simple Principles of Calculation. Zhenyi died at the age of 29, but in her short life she published many books on math and astronomy as well as books of poetry.

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Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

Women in Science includes many other women who have looked to the stars and mathematics for their careers. Some of these are: Ada Lovelace, the first person to write a computer program; Emmy Noether, who helped Albert Einstein develop his theory relativity, created the field of abstract algebra, and “made new connections between energy and time, and angular momentum”; Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin a quantum physicist in 1900s England who “discovered that the sun is made mostly of hydrogen and helium gas” and in 1956 became Harvard University’s first astronomy professor; Mae Jemison, who in 1992 became the first African-American woman in space and later started her own technology consulting firm as well as founding BioSentient Corporation, and a science camp for kids; plus many others.

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Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

The book also features Engineers, such as Hertha Ayrton who improved electric lights by inventing “a new rod that made a clean and quiet bright light” and the Ayrton fan that blew away mustard gas during World War I; and Lillian Gilbreth, who used her theories of “organizational psychology” in inventing the foot pedal for garbage cans, shelving for refrigerators, and even the “work triangle” for kitchens “that determines the distance from the sink to the stove” and saves time. There are Geneticists such as Nettie Stevens who discovered the “X” and “Y” chromosomes, and Barbara McClintock—the pants wearer from the beginning of the post—and the first person “to make a complete genetic map of corn” and discover jumping genes, or “transposons.”

The field of Medicine has benefited from women such as Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor; Alice Ball, a chemist and the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Hawaii, who helped cure leprosy with her chemical work; and Gerty Cori who discovered how our bodies covert glucose, helping us better understand diabetes. In 1947 she became the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize.

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Image and text copyright Rachel Ignotofsky, courtesy of rachelignotofskydesign.com

And this list only begins to scratch the surface of all the fascinating stories of women who overcame social, political, and personal obstacles to follow where their intelligence took them. Inspirational, entertaining, and undeniably eye-catching Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science presents expertly written, one-page biographies that hit all the high (and sometimes unfortunate low) points in these scientist’s lives. The striking layout of both the text and illustrations keep readers riveted to the page, The left-hand side contains a representational drawing of the scientist surrounded by the subjects and materials of her work as well as trivia about her and a quotation. On the right-hand page, small illustrated facts frame the woman’s life story.

Interspersed between the biographies are pages offering a timeline of women’s milestones, depicting lab tools, and graphing statistics of women in STEM. The back matter is impressive, with two more pages presenting 15 more scientists, a four-page, illustrated glossary, resources including films, websites, and books, and an index. Rachel Ignotofsky concludes her book by saying, “Let us celebrate these trailblazers so we can inspire the next generation. Together, we can pick up where they left off and continue the search for knowledge. So go out and tackle new problems, find your answers and learn everything you can to make your own discoveries!”

Ages 7 and up

Ten Speed Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-160774976

To discover more books by Rachel Ignotofsky, visit her website!

National Inventors’ Day Activity

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What Kind of Scientist Would You Be? Word Search

 

Scientists like the women in today’s book make inventions for every area of life! In the future you might become a scientist and develop something new or different. If so, what kind of scientist would you like to be? Find the names of eighteen scientists in this printable puzzle! Then pick one and write why you would like to be that type of scientist!

What Kind of Scientist Would You Be? Puzzle What Kind of Scientist Would You Be? Puzzle Solution!  

Picture Book Review

February 2 – It’s National Women Inventors Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate all the women, past and present, who have changed the world for the better with their inventions and innovations! Every day, women are working in all industries researching and creating the next products, services, medicines, machinery, games, and some things we can’t even imagine yet that will revolutionize the way we live. Who are these women? They might be your friends, neighbors, sisters, daughters—or maybe even you! To celebrate this month, read up on amazing women inventors, and, if you have a big idea, work to get it noticed and on the market!

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

Written by Julia Finley Mosca | Illustrated by Daniel Rieley

 

If you feel different and sometimes discouraged, the story of Temple Grandin may help you see that everyone has a talent and their own place in the world. Temple was born in Boston and “unique from the start, / an unusual girl, / she loved spinning in circles / and watching things twirl.” Loud sounds, big crowds, bright lights, and scratchy clothes disturbed her. And she did not like to get a “big squeezy hug.”

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

When she became overloaded with stress and frustration, Temple was known to “kick, holler, bang, shrieeeeek! Yet, still, by age three, not one word did she speak.” People told Temple’s parents that she’d never be normal and to send her away, but her mother would not hear of it. With a lot of work, special teachers helped Temple learn to talk. “And that thing with her brain… / it was AUTISM, see? / She was ‘different not less,’ / they all finally agreed.”

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

While Temple was like her peers in many ways, she interacted with words differently. “If something was mentioned, / for instance, a fly, / in her mind, she’d see dozens / of PHOTOS buzz by.” Her different view point made it hard for her at school. The other kids chased her and teased her for the way that she acted and for “…saying things / over and over. / and over… / and over… / AND over.” When she had finally had enough, “she threw a book at a kid / and was kicked out of school!” No one understood Temple and Temple couldn’t understand them.

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

Her mother then sent her to visit her aunt, who lived on a ranch out west. Here, among the animals, Temple felt better. Her favorites were the cows, so silent and sweet. “At a NEW school that fall, / Temple found more support / said a teacher who taught her: / ‘You’ll never fall short.” That teacher was right, and at engineering and science she felt right at home.

Her first invention—made from memory—was “a machine / like she’d seen on some farms, / an INVENTION that hugged her / with boards, and not arms.” In this device she felt snug and calm, just like the cows. As she began to succeed, Temple came to see that her attention to detail was a benefit, and she began to feel special. Then she learned about farms where the cows were not treated kindly and resolved to change that.

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

She went on to college and became an expert on farms, earning three degrees. Telling people about her ideas for farming improvements was sometimes scary because they ignored her and, well…weren’t very sweet. But she didn’t give up. She learned more about cattle, like why they circle and moo. “To build better farms / was her goal—she would do it. / ‘Be KIND to our creatures. / They have FEELINGS!’ She knew it.”

It took time, but people began to see that Temple was right, and farm after farm implemented her ideas. She won awards for this work and other ideas, a movie was made about her life, and she now travels the world telling her story and teaching: “‘Each person is special– / so UNIQUE are our minds. / This world needs YOUR ideas. / It takes brains of ALL kinds!”

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

A letter from Temple Grandin to young readers, extensive information about Temple and tidbits from her interview with the author, a timeline of her life, and resources follow the text.

Julia Finley Mosca’s insightful biography of Temple Grandin offers inspiration and encouragement to children at those times when life seems difficult or if they feel misunderstood. Childhood can be filled with moments—both small and large, short or long—when comfort and reassurance are needed. Mosca’s rhyming verses make Temple’s story accessible to a wide age range of readers while providing an inclusive way to show how autism creates a different way of experiencing the world. Temple’s supportive teachers are role models for all educators. Temple Grandin’s fascinating life demonstrates that there is a niche for everyone and that through understanding, perseverance, and acceptance, all children can go far.

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

Daniel Rieley’s cartoon-style illustrations will resonate with readers as Temple takes in everything she sees with wide-open eyes and interprets it in her own way—even before she can speak. The separation between Temple and the other students at her first school is poignantly communicated in a two-page spread in which pointing hands and a lobbed ball of paper appear from the left-hand margin and Temple reads alone on the far side of the right-hand page. Temple’s ability to think in pictures is demonstrated throughout the book with inset images. Readers see some of the farming practices Temple wanted to change, her original drawings, and the resulting equipment now used on farms to improve the conditions of the animals raised there.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin is a moving and motivational story for all children and is a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 10

The Innovation Press, 2017 | ISBN  978-1943147304

Discover more about Julia Finley Mosca and her Amazing Scientists series on the Amazing Scientists website.

Learn more about Daniel Rieley, his books, and his art on his website.

National Women Inventors Month Activity

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Historical Women in STEM Coloring Book

 

From civil engineering to chemistry and botany from radio waves to computer programming, the five women in this coloring book changed science and the world. Enjoy coloring the pages and learning about these amazing women in this printable: Historical Women in STEM Coloring Book

Picture Book Review

December 18 – Bake Cookies Day

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About the Holiday

Baking cookies is a wonderful to get the whole family together! Not only does everyone have fun, but it’s a great time to share traditional family recipes and tell kids the stories that go with them. By baking together children can also learn important skills that translate into future success in school and elsewhere. So, grab your recipes, ingredients, and utensils and bake up a few batches of scrumptious cookies!

How the Cooke Crumbled: The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie

By Gilbert Ford

 

As you’re gobbling down delicious chocolate chip cookies, do you ever wonder who invented them or how they came to be such favorites? Well, the “who” part is easy: chocolate chip cookies were the brainchild of Ruth Wakefield. But the “how” is a bit more tricky. Here are the three popular stories surrounding this yummy treat—which do you think is right?

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Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ruth was a born baker. She loved helping her grandmother out in the kitchen as soon as she “was old enough to hold a spoon.” Ruth had a special feeling about cooking—to her “cooking was a science, and the kitchen was her lab.” When Ruth graduated from high school, she went to college to study nutrition. With her degree in hand, Ruth taught cooking in a high school. But while “she enjoyed leading her classes, she hungered for something more.”

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Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ruth met and married Kenneth Wakefield, who also “shared her passion for cooking.” Together, they planned to open their own restaurant. Four years later, even though the economy was in depression and they had a young son, Ruth and Kenneth bought an old tollhouse in Whitman, Massachusetts. They fixed it up and named their restaurant the Toll House Inn.

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Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ruth did “most of the cooking herself while Kenneth ordered food and helped out in the kitchen.” Ruth was very particular about how the Toll House Inn was run, even measuring “the distance between the fork and the plate for accuracy. Hungry diners began visiting the Toll House Inn, leaving satisfied and ready to return.

So how did chocolate chip cookies come to be? Here are the three popular theories: “The Disaster”—One story says that while Ruth was “whipping up a batch of Butter Drop Do cookies,” her mixer, spinning at top speed, “knocked a Nestlé chocolate bar off the shelf” and right into the dough. “What a disaster!” The grill man thought Ruth should bake them anyway, and when the cookies were done, Ruth “discovered pure heaven.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-the-cookie-crumbled-the-disaster

Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

“The Substitute”—Having forgotten to order baking chocolate, Ruth chopped up a Nestlé chocolate bar and added it to the dough, thinking that it would melt evenly in the oven. “But when she pulled the cookies from the oven, boy, was she wrong. ‘They’re ruined!’ she cried.” But some waitresses and kitchen workers tried them and found them to be delicious. When Ruth tried them herself, she agreed.

“The Mastermind”—Inspiration struck Ruth while returning from a trip to Egypt. Back in the kitchen, “she deliberately took an ice pick to that chocolate bar” and “dropped the chunks into the mix.” The baked cookies were “exactly how she imagined it. She “took a bite and savored the warm, gooey chocolate as it melted right in her mouth.”

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Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of gilbertford.com.

“So, which version do you believe?”

The Disaster seems a little random, and the Substitute is “a little hard to swallow,” considering Ruth’s vast knowledge of cooking and ingredients. That leaves the Mastermind. Ruth was well-known for her ability to create delectable desserts and for searching out new recipes. It seems that “Ruth deserves some credit. She was one smart cookie!”

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Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of gilbertford.com.

So with new cookies on the menu, Ruth began serving them to her customers. Everyone loved them and word spread about her “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies.” People came from far away to try them. So many people, in fact, that Ruth had to expand her restaurant. You might think that Ruth kept her recipe a secret, but instead, she shared it with anyone who asked! She even let it be printed in the newspaper. Soon, people throughout Boston were baking Ruth’s cookies.

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Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of gilbertford.com.

When Ruth was interviewed on the Betty Crocker radio show, her recipe spread across the country. Seeing an unusual increase in sales of Nestle chocolate bars, the managers set out to find the cause. Soon they showed up at Ruth’s door begging for her recipe. “She gave it to them, and Nestlé began to produce chocolate chips designed specifically for Ruth’s cookies.” In payment, it’s said “she was awarded a lifetime supply of Nestlé chocolate!”

By the 1940s Ruth’s recipe appeared on every bag of Nestlé chocolate chips. From then on, Ruth’s cookies became a favorite of adults and kids alike!

An Author’s Note relating more about Ruth Wakefield and her famous cookies, as well as her classic recipe follow the text.

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Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of gilbertford.com.

Gilbert Ford presents this sweet story with all the intrigue that has grown up around the invention of the chocolate chip cookie while giving Ruth Wakefield her proper due for her cleverness in the kitchen. Ford’s conversational style invites kids to participate in the story—a nice touch considering that the chocolate chip cookie is a perennial favorite with children. Relating the three separate theories gives readers an opportunity to think about the nature of invention. Including the facts about Ruth’s generosity with her recipe show readers that sharing ideas can be beneficial and could even prompt discussions about different ways to handle proprietary information.

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Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of gilbertford.com.

In keeping with his light tone, Ford’s illustrations combine realistic and whimsical elements. The three theories are presented in more comic-book style, while the rest of the story portrays the historical time period, Ruth and Kenneth’s growing restaurant, and, of course, the star of the plate—the chocolate chip cookie.

For kids who love cooking and baking, history, and biographies as well as for its value in initiating discussion and even projects, How the Cookie Crumbled would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481450676

Discover more about Gilbert Ford, his books, and his art on his website.

Bake Cookies Day Activity

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Baking Together Coloring Page

 

Baking together is a fun activity for kids and adults to do anytime! Before gathering all the ingredients and utensils, enjoy this printable Baking Together Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

November 21 – National Entrepreneurs’ Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2010, today’s holiday celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit that is alive and well in so many people and that helps advance knowledge and technology, solve problems, and make life better. The third Tuesday of November has been set aside to honor those thinkers and inventors of the past as well as to encourage those now working to see their ideas come to fruition. With their supple minds and unique way of looking at the world, children are natural entrepreneurs, as today’s book shows!

Norton and Alpha

By Kristyna Litten

 

Norton was a very particular kind of collector. He loved finding the kinds of things most people threw away. “Battered wheels, rusty cogs, broken springs…and best of all were the things Norton didn’t have a name for.” Nearly everywhere he went, Norton found useful things. He took them all home and “made the most amazing inventions.”

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Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day Norton found a little springy thing that he added “to his latest project.” It was the perfect final touch, and Norton named his invention Alpha. Alpha accompanied Norton on all of his hunts, following “his little robot nose down unknown paths.” He was small enough to get into all those places Norton couldn’t reach—ones where amazing items lurked.

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Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day “Alpha’s nose felt slightly odd. It tickled and tingled and led him to something very unusual.” Norton had no idea what it was, but he took it along home. In his workshop he tested it in all of his usual ways, but this object didn’t react in any way familiar. In fact, the longer Norton had it, the less useful it appeared to be until Norton finally threw it out the window. As it fell it scattered bits of itself all over the ground.

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Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

As Norton and Alpha cleaned up, “they found a little round something their mysterious discovery had left behind.” Norton placed it in a jar just in case. The next day rain kept Norton and Alpha indoors, and the next day after that it was too hot to go out. Friday turned out to be just right, so Norton “oiled their joints and got everything ready for a long day’s collecting.”

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Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When they opened the doors they were greeted by the most beautiful, colorful sight. Norton and Alpha ran and played in the field and collected samples of all “the blue, pink, and orange things.” At home Norton didn’t experiment on them or even try to figure out what they were. Instead, he just used them to decorate his shelves, pipes, boxes, and bins because they “made him smile.”

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Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Kristyna Litten’s inventive story of a little robot who loves to tinker and collect odd objects and his constant companion, Alpha, will charm children who are always intrigued by the unknown and ready to incorporate found objects into their world. The idea that industrious efforts can coexist with the simple enjoyment of the earth’s beauty may inspire kids and adults to also appreciate those special “found moments” that can bring much happiness to life.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-going-down-pipe

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Litten’s Norton and Alpha are adorable friends, inviting little readers into their lab, where kids will love lingering over the gears, dials, machines, and shelves stacked with recognizable springs, tacks, nails, washers, hooks, hinges and other items. Readers will “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” when Norton and Alpha open their doors—accomplished through a marvelous double gate-fold spread—and the once-bleak landscape has been transformed into a gorgeous field by the flowers Norton has helped to grow. Children will also enjoy following what happens to the little seed Norton has saved as it is watered by an undetected leak in a nearby bottle and germinated on that very hot day.

With its cute illustrations and inspiring story, Norton and Alpha would be a much-asked-for book on any child’s home bookshelf and a terrific lead-in to inventive classroom playtimes or units.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454924999

Discover more about Kristyna Litten, her art, and her books on her blog.

National Entrepreneur’s Day Activity

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Inventor’s Box

 

For young inventors or tinkerers, having bits and pieces and some tools to work with all stored in one place encourages creative thinking. Filling the drawers of a tool case, a tool box, or a tackle box with items like springs, brads, wheels, hinges, plastic piping, pieces of wood, glue, tape, and simple tools can spark a child’s imagination. Take your child along to the craft or hardware store and choose items together!

Picture Book Review

May 30 – Loomis Day

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About the Holiday

On Loomis Day we remember Mahlon Loomis, a Washington DC dentist working in the mid-1800s who had a very inventive mind. Not only did he invent artificial teeth, he also had some revolutionary ideas on communication. He understood about the electrical properties of the atmosphere and experimented with sending signals long distances using kites flown many miles apart but at the same height. In July of 1872 he received a U. S. patent for “An Improvement in Telegraphing” on wireless telegraphy. Further research revealed that while his wireless telegraphic system worked, it did not work the way Loomis thought. His experiments, however, advanced the science at the time, leading to one of the world’s most transformative discoveries and an ongoing quest for better and faster communications.

Jackrabbit McCabe & the Electric Telegraph

Written by Lucy Margaret Rozier | Illustrated by Leo Espinosa

 

Anyone who looked at the baby with legs “so long they looped like a pretzel” and required a stroller with “an extra axle” knew that he’d been born to run. In fact, his legs grew so fast that if his mother dressed him in long pants in the morning, they were shorts by that evening. Little Jack McCabe used those legs to chase “whatever would run: hogs, dogs, even his own shadow” and “as he got older, he raced trains flying past his house in Windy Flats. By the time he turned eighteen, he’d beat every stagecoach, antelope, and locomotive in the territory.”

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Image copyright Leo Espinosa, text copyright Lucy Margaret Rozier. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The people of Windy Flats called him Jackrabbit and relied on him to deliver messages that were urgent. On Sundays he joined the horses on the track, making money when people bet on him to come in first. One day, though, the electric telegraph came to Windy Flats. The poles and wires already crossed the eastern part of the country. Each connected city had “a telegraph and an operator who sent and received messages in Morse code, an alphabet of dots and dashes.”

The people of Windy Flats didn’t think this newfangled contraption could carry messages faster than Jackrabbit, so the telegraph man suggested, “‘How ‘bout a race between your fella and this here electric telegraph? Sandy Bluff’s just got themselves an operator, That’s pert near twenty-five miles, as the crow flies.’” Jackrabbit was all for it.

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Image copyright Leo Espinosa, text copyright Lucy Margaret Rozier. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

On the day of the race, the whole town of Windy Flats came out with flags, banners, and even a brass band. “The mayor carefully wrote down the same message on two slips of paper. He handed one to the telegraph man and the other to Jackrabbit.”  On the shout of “GO!” the telegraph man plunked his finger on the key sending the pulses through the wire while Jackrabbit took off down the road toward Sandy Bluff “like a tornado.”

The townspeople watched as in only a few moments “a reply came clattering back as that telegraph key jumped and smacked all on its own.” The telegraph man read the code and yelled, “‘Message received. Stop. Sandy Bluff Operator.’” But where was Jackrabbit McCabe? Although he made it to Sandy Bluff in only 9 ½ minutes, it was still too long to beat the telegraph. When he stopped short at the door of the depot, he was met by a telegram tacked to the door. Jackrabbit read it and then pulled the paper that contained the mayor’s message out of his pocket. The two were the same.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jackrabbit-mccabe-&-the-electric-telegraph-racing-at-the-starting-line

Image copyright Leo Espinosa, text copyright Lucy Margaret Rozier. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Riding home in a stagecoach, “Jackrabbit felt lower than a snake’s navel.” The mayor also felt pretty low, thinking of Jackrabbit, until he realized that if Jackrabbit’s fingers were as fast as his legs, he’d make an excellent telegraph operator. When Jackrabbit stepped out of the stagecoach and heard the mayor’s offer, he whooped with joy. It didn’t take long for Jackrabbit to learn the new code, and soon “his fingers flew like a banjo player’s strumming that telegraph key.” Every day he sent and received messages. He even “teamed up with the local typesetter, who printed the news that came over that wire, linking Windy Flats to the whole entire country,” and whenever a telegram or the newspaper needed to be delivered, Jackrabbit was there in a flash!

An Author’s Note outlining the pivotal event that sparked Samuel F. B. Morse’s interest in a quicker communication method and the history of the telegraph as well as a Morse code key and a riddle to translate follow the text.

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Image copyright Leo Espinosa, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Lucy Margaret Rozier has written a funny and fact-based addition to the fine American tradition of tall tales with Jackrabbit McCabe & the Electric Telegraph. From her folksy delivery to her humorously exaggerated details, Rozier presents an engaging history of the telegraph through the story of one man affected by this new technology. Kids will love the fast-paced story full of crackling dialog and gripping suspense.

Leo Espinosa infuses his brightly colored, vintage-style illustrations with the charm and innocence of the mid-1800s while highlighting the humor of Rozier’s yarn. Jackrabbit’s looong legs take up a whole page—sometimes two—as he runs with dogs and hogs, sprints past steam trains, speeds off at the starting line, and wedges himself into the stagecoach, with one foot hanging out the window. The small town of Windy Flats and the townspeople are decked out in period details, and the enthusiasm of the time is infectious.

Jackrabbit McCabe & the Electric Telegraph will become a favorite read lightening quick. The book would make a fun addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-0385378437

Discover more about Lucy Margaret Rozier plus book-related resources on her website!

View a gallery of illustration work by Leo Espinosa on his website!

Loomis Day Activity

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Morse Code Decoder

 

Sending secret messages in code is cool! Use this printable Morse Code Decoder to learn how to write your name and those notes you don’t want anyone else to read in this early method of communication.

Picture Book Review

April 9 – National Inventor’s Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventor’s Digest Magazine to promote awareness of and celebrate the achievements of those creative individuals who make our lives better—or, in some cases, at least interesting. Every day there are kids and adults, professionals and amateurs pondering solutions to problems and just “what ifs?” Would you like to join them? You can celebrate this month by acting on one of your great ideas and by learning more about inventors like the subject of today’s book!

WHOOSH! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Written by Chris Barton | Illustrated by Don Tate

 

Lonnie Johnson had a way with stuff. In his hands bolts and screws, gears and springs, spools, clothespins, “spare parts his dad let him bring in from the shed, and various other things he’d hauled back from the junkyard” fueled Lonnie’s ideas for inventions and rocket ships. The kids at school loved to watch him launch the rockets he’d devised on the playground. Lonnie wanted to have a career as an engineer. Getting there took a lot of determination and courage. Once, the results of a standardized test said that he would not make a good engineer. Lonnie felt discouraged, but he knew that the person who had graded his test didn’t know him—or Linex.

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Image copyright Don Tate, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Linex was the robot Lonnie had built from scrap metal. “Compressed–air cylinders and valves allowed Linex’s body to turn and its arms to move. The switches came from an old, broken jukebox. Lonnie used a tape recorder to program Linex, and as a bonus the reels looked like eyes.” Lonnie’s goal was to enter Linex in a science fair, but first he wanted to be able to program it. It took several years before he discovered how. Using his little sister’s walkie-talkie, Lonnie solved the problem and took Linex to the “1968 science fair at the University of Alabama—where only five years earlier, African American students hadn’t even been allowed.” Lonnie’s team won first place.

Lonnie went to college at Tuskegee Institute, where he realized his dream of becoming an engineer. His career “took him beyond Alabama—way beyond.”  He went to work for NASA. Before the orbiter Galileo could be sent to Jupiter, Lonnie developed a system that would ensure the craft would have a constant supply of power for its computer memory in case the main power was lost. Some fellow scientists doubted his idea would work, but it did. “As it photographed Jupiter and its moons, Galileo was supported by the power package that Lonnie designed.”

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Image copyright Don Tate, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Even though Lonnie worked for NASA, he continued tinkering with his own ideas—in his own workshop. One problem he was trying to solve involved the need for the world’s refrigerators and air conditioners to have a cooling system that didn’t use the damaging chemical R-12. “He had an idea for using water and air pressure instead.” He built a prototype and experimented with it in his bathroom sink. When he turned his pump and nozzle on, though, he got a surprise as a stream of water blasted across the room.

Suddenly, Lonnie saw another use for his invention—as a water gun. He created a design small enough for children’s hands, and tested it at a picnic, where it was a hit. Lonnie took his idea to a toy company…and another…and another. Finally one company agreed to make his water gun. Spurred on by this success, Lonnie found investors to help him build other original inventions: “a water-propelled toy airplane, two kinds of engines, and his cooling system” that had led to the water gun. He even quit his day job to devote his time to inventing.

But things don’t always work out. Each project fell through—even the water gun. It was a scary time as he and his family had to move out of their house and into an apartment. But Lonnie believed in himself. He took his water gun to another toy company. In 1989 he found a toy company willing to take a look. Lonnie made the trip to Philadelphia and wowed the executives with his invention.

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Image copyright Don Tate, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Now kids everywhere enjoy the fun of the Super Soaker. Today, Lonnie can be found in his workshop doing what he loves: “facing challenges, solving problems and building things” because “his ideas just keep on flowing.”

Chris Barton’s biography of Lonnie Johnson is a fascinating look at a man who succeeds in turning “No” into “Yes” by the power of his intelligence, ideas, and determination. Kids will love hearing about how one of their favorite toys came to be and will be inspired to chase their own dreams despite challenges and setbacks. Barton’s detailed narration provides a full picture of Lonnie Johnson and his times, specifics that attract and inform like-minded kids. Including the results of Lonnie’s exam should encourage kids who think differently. The story is enhanced by the conversational tone that makes it accessible to kids of all ages.

Don Tate illuminates Lonnie Johnson’s life story with his bold, full-bleed paintings that follow Lonnie from his being a child with big ideas to becoming a man who has seen these ideas through to success. With an eyebrow raised in concentration, young Lonnie demonstrates confidence and skill as he works on an invention, and kids will love seeing the tools of his trade laid out on the kitchen table. With his eyes narrowed in frustration and disappointment, Lonnie reads the results of his childhood exam. As Lonnie grows older and designs systems for NASA, the illustrations depict the schematics of the Galileo power package and Lonnie’s surprise at the strength of the water stream in his prototype cooling design. As all kids know, the spurt of a Super Soaker is awesome, and this fact is demonstrated in a “Wowing” fold-out page.

WHOOSH! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions is a welcome biography of the man who designs systems for the greater world but has never lost his youthful enthusiasm to invent.

Ages 5 – 10

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580892971

Check out more fiction and nonfiction books by Chris Barton on his website!

Discover more books written and illustrated by Don Tate as well as a portfolio of his work and book-related activity guides on his website!

National Inventor’s Month Activity

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Invention Dot-to-Dot Puzzles

 

Many inventions have changed the world and continue to be used long after they were first created. Connect the dots on these printable puzzles to discover three remarkable inventions!

Invention Dot-to-Dot 1 | Invention Dot-to-Dot 2 | Invention Dot-to-Dot 3

Picture Book Review

March 6 – International Ideas Month

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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. International Ideas Month also invites would-be inventors and clever folk alike 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! 

The Secret Subway

Written by Shana Corey | Illustrated by Red Nose Studio (Chris Sickels)

 

In the 1860s the streets of New York were…well, not to put too fine a point on it…disgusting. Made of cobblestone and filled with trash, waste, horse manure, dust, dirt, and throngs of people, the roads made for rough travel. Many people had ideas about what could be done to make the streets safer and cleaner. Some thought a moving sidewalk would work, others talked about double-decker roads or an elevated train system. But while there was a lot of talk, nothing ever got done.

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Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

Alfred Ely Beach, however, peered down from his high office room and studied the street below him. Alfred Beach was a thinker, a publisher, and an inventor. He put his clever mind to work and came up with a solution. He envisioned a train powered by an enormous fan that would travel underground. “People would get where they needed to go as if by magic!” he thought. He couldn’t wait to start building. There was just one problem—he didn’t own the streets. And getting permission to dig them up would be hard. “So Beach hatched a sneaky plan. He would propose building an underground tube to carry mail instead.” As he had imagined, no one objected to this project when he proposed it—not even Boss Tweed, who unofficially ran the city.

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Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

Given the okay, Beach rented the basement of Devlin’s Clothing Store. Every day he sent in workers to dig and every night wagons took away the debris. For 58 days and nights Beach’s men tunneled under the city, moving forward 8 feet each day. At last the tunnel was finished. It was 8 feet across and 294 feet long—large enough to hold a train full of people.

Beach then decorated the basement to be a beautiful, welcoming waiting room. Gaslight lamps and paintings dotted the walls, flowers added color, and a grandfather clock rang out the time. There was even a fountain with goldfish, a man playing a grand piano, and a delicious lunch. When everything was ready, Beach invited reporters, government officials, and distinguished citizens to join him on February 26, 1876 at the “Beach Pneumatic Transit Company.”

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Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

That first day Alfred Beach’s guests only admired the train, but they gave it glowing praise. Soon Beach opened his train to the public. With a WHOOSH from a gigantic fan, the train zipped down the track and then back again. “Beach’s train was a SENSATION! All winter while wagons slipped and slid on the slushy streets above, people poured into Devlin’s for the twenty-five-cent ride.”

While riders loved it, some people objected. Shop keepers didn’t want potential buyers underground. Property owners were afraid the digging would hurt their buildings, and some felt Beach wanted too much power. Even Boss Tweed no longer supported it since some of his friends had their own ideas on building a subway. When the governor of New York refused to let Beach expand his train, the project came to a halt.

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Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

The idea didn’t die, however, and “many years later drilling could be heard once again under the streets of New York City” as a train system powered with electricity was being built. Diggers discovered many unusual things buried under the city. Perhaps the most surprising was a brick wall behind which stood a little railroad car rusting in its tracks, a memorial to innovation and the future.

Alfred Ely Beach was one clever man, and Shana Corey tells his story with historical perspective, wit, and suspense. Corey’s language crackles with evocative alliteration, stealth, and action. Kids will be excited to learn of the intrigue and imagination that led to this remarkable snippet of America’s history.

Fans of Claymation will love Chris Sickels’ multimedia artwork that combines sculpted characters, specially built props, photographs, and illustration. Sickels’ characters are nothing short of astounding. Their period clothing, hairstyles, and expressive faces lend an engaging and realistic dimension to the vintage scenes. Sickels cleverly depicts early New York City and people’s alternative ideas to the traffic problem with sketched in schemetics. His use of color and lighting sets the perfect tone for this highly entertaining and educational picture book. Kids will want to linger over each page to catch all the details of The Secret Subway.

For kids interested in transportation, history, inventions, and claymation and other arts, The Secret Subway would be a wonderful addition to their home library.

Ages 4 – 10

Schwartz & Wade, Random House Kids, 2016 | ISBN 978-0375870712

Discover more about Shana Corey and her books for kids on her website!

You will be amazed by the art, books, and animation by Chris Sickels on his Red Nose Studio website!

This Secret Subway book trailer is just the ticket!

International Ideas Month Activity

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Chris Sickels’ Secret Subway

Chris Sickels of Red Nose Studio invites you to build your own Secret Subway with this printable play set, complete with Alfred Ely Beach and a passenger! Click here to download your printable Secret Subway Activity!

Build a Super Subway Car

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Every day, millions of people all over the world travel to work, school, and other activities by subway. Here’s an easy and fun way to build your own subway train from recycled materials. You can make just one car or make a few and connect them to create a long train worthy of any big city!

Supplies

  • Printable Subway Car Template
  • Medium or long toothpaste box
  • Silver paint
  • Glue
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the toothpaste box with the silver paint, let dry
  2. Cut out the windows, doors, and stripe templates
  3. Trim the stripes to fit your box
  4. To make the little sign near the door, trim a small aquare from one of the stripes
  5. Glue the templates to the box

Picture Book Review