August 27 – It’s National Inventors Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-was-that-built-cover

About the Holiday

While dates for this holiday may vary – some say May while others celebrate in August, National Inventors Month was established in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine. This month-long holiday recognizes the imagination and talent of individuals who dare to think differently to create new products, services, and ways of doing things that make a positive contribution to the world. Today, I’m sharing a book that highlights those who reach for the sky, dive under the sea, and look for opportunities to better help and connect people through the structures we use and live in. If you harbor dreams of being an inventor—on a large or small scale—look for opportunities to share your ideas!

How Was that Built?

Written by Roma Agrawal | Illustrated by Katie Hickey

 

They seem to have sprung from the ground, they soar into the clouds, they cross vast waterways—over and under the ripples and waves, and they come in all shapes and sizes. What are they? Buildings! For lovers of architecture, engineering, and just the marvels that people can construct, Roma Agrawal’s compendium of some of the world’s most incredible buildings will leave them enthralled—and much more knowledgeable on how these structures came to be.

In fifteen chapters, Agrawal reveals all the nuts and bolts about how buildings are secured on difficult sites (such as on sinking ground, in the sea, underground, and on ice); constructed to be tall, long, or able to move; and made to serve civic purposes. In addition to detailed explanations of the conditions architects and engineers must take into consideration when designing and constructing a building, bridge, or other structure, Agrawal clearly describes the materials used, how they are made, and why each is chosen for a particular job.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-was-that-built-emily-warren

Image copyright Katie Hickey, 2022, text copyright Roma Agrawal, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Rounding out each chapter, Agrawal goes in depth on one world building that demonstrates her topic. For example, In the first chapter she introduces readers to the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City, which was built on top of an old Aztec pyramid in the middle of a filled-in lake. When it began sinking and tilting, engineers in the 1990s devised an intriguing way to save it. If you’re a fan of skyscrapers and wonder just how they’re built, a chapter on The Shard in London, which “is over 1,000 feet tall…and has 11,000 glass panels” (and for which Roma Agrawal worked as an engineer) reveals the secrets of a strong core and the incredible machinery that allows workers to keep going up and up.

Readers who love bridges will find two chapters on these beautiful and intricate structures. One reveals the fascinating story of how the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge overcame many challenges under the direction of Emily Warren, a woman who broke barrios for women in the engineering field. Another describes six different types of bridges as well as where they are used and why.

Readers also learn about concrete and how arches and domes work. They then explore the Pantheon and discover how it has stood for nearly 2,000 years. Other concrete structures from around the world are also discussed. You may not think too much about sewers, but imagine living without them! You’ll get a good (and stinky) idea about the conditions in London hundreds of years ago before Joseph Bazalgette designed and built the first sewer system. How did he do it? Agrawal breaks it down and then talks about today’s modern sewers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-was-that-built-the-shard

Image copyright Katie Hickey, 2022, text copyright Roma Agrawal, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

You’ll also find chapters on dams, tunnels, and buildings with moveable parts—or buildings like the Halley VI research station in Antarctica that can be moved easily in their entirety to avoid snow or ice that may crack beneath them. Then there are the challenges of building under the sea and in outer space. While astronauts now rely on the International Space Station, “some engineers and scientists are studying how to build structures on the Moon! Then researchers could live there for a long time to carry out their experiments and learn more about outer space.” What considerations must engineers take into account and what materials will they use? Agrawal fills readers in. She then closes her book with a look toward the future and talks about new materials and methods of building that may transform our world.

Sprinkled throughout the book are “Try It At Home” prompts for experiments that readers can easily do at home to visually interact with the concepts Agrawal lays out, such as using malted milk balls and raisins to understand “how carbon atoms make steel stronger” and making a pneumatic caisson with just a few household items.

Back matter includes a glossary of terms found in the book and brief biographies of ten influential engineers from the past and present.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-was-that-built-outer-space

Image copyright Katie Hickey, 2022, text copyright Roma Agrawal, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Readers of all ages will be engrossed by Roma Agrawal’s guide through the architecture and engineering that go into housing, moving, connecting, and supporting the world’s population. Every page contains fascinating details and interesting tidbits culled from Agrawal’s extensive experience as an engineer. These go far beyond an introduction to landmark buildings to show readers exactly how each type of building works. Relayed in a simple-to-understand, conversational style, her text is also broken up into short paragraphs that are easily digestible and invite further research, making this a superb resource for schools, homeschooling, and enthusiasts of all things engineering and architectural. Agrawal’s inclusion of structures from the past reveal the ingenuity of our ancestors and how they still influence today’s engineers and architects. Kids who love geography, archaeology, astronomy, and learning about all the intricate workings of the world will be enthralled with this book.

Katie Hickey gives readers an insider’s view of these phenomenal buildings with her stylish and incredibly detailed illustrations. Cityscapes allow children to understand the scale of skyscrapers from around the world and the beauty and breadth of New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge. Hickey whisks readers off to London to see The Shard; to New Zealand to view Te matau ā pohe, a bascule bridge whose shape was inspired by a fish hook; to Japan, where the Sapporo Dome accommodates soccer and baseball games with a moveable field of natural turf; and to Africa to stand on the edge of the Katse Dam and look 600 feet down into its reservoir. Along with this world tour, Hickey helps readers visualize the intricate working parts of certain buildings and bridges with interior views and small insets that demonstrate the physics of each design. Images of various types of cranes, pulleys, and other machinery also reveal the science behind building each structure.

A rich and comprehensive resource on the intricate engineering that goes into designing and building complex structures while also sharing the stories behind them, How Was that Built? will captivate readers of all ages. The book is a must for any STEM, science, art, or archaeology lover and belongs in all school and public library collections. 

Ages 6 and up

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1547609291

Roma Agrawal is a structural engineer who builds big. From footbridges and sculptures, to train stations and skyscrapers – including The Shard – she has left an indelible mark on London’s landscape. She is a tireless promoter of engineering and technical careers to young people, particularly under-represented groups such as women. She has advised policymakers and governments on science education, and has given talks to thousands around the world at universities, schools and organizations, including two for TEDx. Roma has been awarded international awards for her technical prowess and success in promoting the profession, including the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering’s Rooke Award. 

Discover more about Roma Agrawal and her work on her website, and connect with her on Instagram | Twitter. You can read an interview with Roma Agrawal in Publishers Weekly here.

To view a portfolio of work by Katie Hickey, visit Pickled Ink. You can connect with Katie Hickey on Instagram | Twitter 

National Inventors Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spaghetti-box-bridge-craft

Build a Remarkable Recycled Bridge

 

You don’t need fancy blocks and construction materials to build a bridge! Little ones will be fascinated to put together a bridge made out of items you already have at home or that may even be slated for the recycle bin. Spaghetti boxes make great roadways, and cut-up egg cartons can be used as supports.

Build a Whole Town

Want to give your bridge a town with a river to span – or maybe two towns to connect? Cereal boxes and pasta boxes make great skyscrapers, apartment buildings, fire stations, and more. Need a farm silo? Grab a peanut butter jar, oatmeal container, or aluminum can. Cut a meandering river for your bridge to span from paper or cardboard. You can use them as is or—if your kids are sticklers for a little more detail—add some paint and details! So look around at the raw materials around you, use your imagination, and get creative!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-was-that-built-cover

You can find How Was that Built? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 24 – Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-cover

About the Holiday

All this week, we celebrate Engineers and Engineering! Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPA) in 1951, Engineering Week focuses on increasing an understanding of and interest in engineering and other technical careers to ensure a diverse and well-educated engineering workforce for the future. More than seventy engineering, education, and cultural societies and more than fifty corporations and government agencies cooperate to raise public awareness of engineers’ contributions to our quality of life. Throughout the week they work to foster a recognition in parents, teachers, and students of the importance of a technical education as well as a high level of math, science, and technology literacy. By reaching out to schools, businesses, and community organizations across the country, they hope to motivate young people to pursue engineering careers. For Introduce a Girl to Engineering, or Girl Day, educators, engineers, volunteers, and others demonstrate engineering activities, show girls how engineers change our world, and provide mentors to guide tomorrow’s engineers. To learn more about Engineering Week and today’s holiday in particular, visit the NSPA website.

Goldilocks and the Three Engineers

Written by Sue Fliess | Illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis

 

“In a tiny bungalow, / there lived a clever thinker. / Young Goldilocks invented things. She’d make and craft and tinker.” Goldilocks made lots of useful things, like machines to help you tie your shoes, to a self-zipping zipper to a hat outfitted with a flashlight, magnifying glass, and itty-bitty satellite dish to help you find the things you’ve lost. But one day, Goldilocks found that she had “inventor’s block,” so she decided to take a walk.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-bears

Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

At the same time, the Bear family was out gathering nuts and berries for their pre-hibernation celebration. Baby Bear had a nifty contraption that knocked fruit and nuts into a basket with a tennis racquet. Papa Bear had an ingenious wheelbarrow with mechanical arms and hands that picked berries one by one and deposited them in the cart—but only after tossing them through a tiny basketball hoop. Swish! And Mama Bear’s handy vacuum sucked fruit right off the bushes and collected them in a tank.

Their next stop was the beehive at the top of a hill. After they’d eaten all their goodies, Baby Bear spied a little bungalow. The Bears thought it was just the place to spend the winter. When they went inside, they found “the room was full of strange devices, / widgets, tools, and more!” Looking more closely, Papa Bear found a chair that was perfect for Baby Bear. He marveled that “it feeds you and it wipes your mouth, / and reads you stories, too!” Meanwhile, Mama Bear had discovered a bowl that stirred porridge and a bed that automatically rocked you to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-workshop

Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Baby Bear loved the chair but wished for one more innovation that would make it just right. Papa Bear found parts and tools and fixed the chair to Baby Bear’s specifications. Mama Bear tasted the porridge and found it lacking one ingredient, so Papa Bear created a porridge-stirrer accessory to add it drop by drop. By now it was dark, and even though Papa Bear thought it wasn’t right to stay, Baby Bear convinced him that one night would be okay.

But when they crawled into bed and turned it on, it rocked so much that it tipped the Bears right onto the floor. There was only one thing to do: “Baby fixed the engine block. / Replace the gears that burned. / Soon the bears were fast asleep… / Then Goldilocks returned.” She saw the chair, tasted the porridge, and then… “heard snoring sounds.” Wide awake now, the bears began to explain. But Goldilocks was not upset. Instead she said, “‘You’ve improved my projects here, / and made them much more fun. / Proving that four brains, by far, / are better than just one!’”

Excited to be inventing again with the bears on board to lend their smart innovations, Goldilocks sends the family off amid promises to “‘…meet up in the spring’” when they will “‘…make the next big thing!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-bed

Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

With her fun flip on the Goldilocks story, Sue Fleiss invites kids to indulge their inner inventor with wacky contraptions that can make getting dressed, cooking, going to bed, and chores more exciting. Fleiss’s clever takes on the well-known “just right” chair, porridge, and bed get readers thinking creatively—perhaps even about their own household appliances. While the original story ends with the interloper being chased away, Fleiss’s version shines with the benefits of cooperation, collaboration, and being open to new ideas.

With so many cool inventions to discover on every page, readers will love taking extra time to find and talk about them all. Any young maker would swoon over Petros Bouloubasis’s well-stocked workbench, and readers would have a blast drawing their own gadgets using the tools and supplies depicted. Quirky, abstract landscapes add to the kid-centric ambiance, and just like the Bear family, who drives away in a new vehicle with their full wheelbarrow in tow, readers will look forward to returning to Goldilocks’ little bungalow again and again.

Imagination, creativity, teamwork, and friendship all wrapped up in a clever fractured fairytale—what could be better?! Goldilocks and the Three Engineers is one to add to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807529973

Discover more about Sue Fleiss and her books on her website.

To learn more about Petros Bouloubasis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spaghetti-box-bridge-craft

Build a Remarkable Recycled Bridge

 

Engineers are at the core of so many things that make our homes and neighborhoods what they are. Kids will have fun building a bridge from Using items you already have at home or that may even be slated for the recycle bin, kids will have fun making the bridge above and maybe even a whole town! Spaghetti boxes make great roadways, and cut-up egg cartons can be used as supports. Cereal boxes and pasta boxes make skyscrapers, apartment buildings, fire stations, and more. Need a farm silo? Grab a peanut butter jar, aluminum can, or bread crumb container. You can use them as is or—if your kids are sticklers for a little more detail—turn the boxes inside out, tape, and add paint and details! So look around, use your imagination, and get creative!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-cover

You can find Goldilocks and the Three Engineers at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 31 – It’s National Inventor’s Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-cover

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-light-bulb

Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-frequency-hopping

Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-fizz

Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-plastic

Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-instant-noodles

Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-share-your-bright-idea-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!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-cover

You can find Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 17 – National Week of Making

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-cover

About the Holiday

In 2016 President Barack Obama instituted June 17 – 23 as the National Week of Making to celebrate the spirit of American ingenuity and invention and ensure that future generations receive the support they need to continue this proud tradition. In his official proclamation, President Obama stated: “Since our earliest days, makers, artists, and inventors have driven our economy and transformed how we live by taking risks, collaborating, and drawing on their talents and imaginations to make our Nation more dynamic and interconnected. During National Week of Making, we recommit to sparking the creative confidence of all Americans and to giving them the skills, mentors, and resources they need to harness their passion and tackle some of our planet’s greatest challenges.” Today, makerspaces can be found across the country in studios, libraries, schools, and community venues to encourage kids and adults to explore their ideas and the feasibility of bringing their creations to market. To learn more about this week-long holiday, visit the Nation of Makers website.

Goldilocks and the Three Engineers

Written by Sue Fliess | Illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis

 

“In a tiny bungalow, / there lived a clever thinker. / Young Goldilocks invented things. She’d make and craft and tinker.” Goldilocks made lots of useful things, like machines to help you tie your shoes, to a self-zipping zipper to a hat outfitted with a flashlight, magnifying glass, and itty-bitty satellite dish to help you find the things you’ve lost. But one day, Goldilocks found that she had “inventor’s block,” so she decided to take a walk.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-bears

Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

At the same time, the Bear family was out gathering nuts and berries for their pre-hibernation celebration. Baby Bear had a nifty contraption that knocked fruit and nuts into a basket with a tennis racquet. Papa Bear had an ingenious wheelbarrow with mechanical arms and hands that picked berries one by one and deposited them in the cart—but only after tossing them through a tiny basketball hoop. Swish! And Mama Bear’s handy vacuum sucked fruit right off the bushes and collected them in a tank.

Their next stop was the beehive at the top of a hill. After they’d eaten all their goodies, Baby Bear spied a little bungalow. The Bears thought it was just the place to spend the winter. When they went inside, they found “the room was full of strange devices, / widgets, tools, and more!” Looking more closely, Papa Bear found a chair that was perfect for Baby Bear. He marveled that “it feed you and it wipes your mouth, / and reads you stories, too!” Meanwhile, Mama Bear had discovered a bowl that stirred porridge and a bed that automatically rocked you to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-workshop

Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Baby Bear loved the chair but wished for one more innovation that would make it just right. Papa Bear found parts and tools and fixed the chair to Baby Bear’s specifications. Mama Bear tasted the porridge and found it lacking one ingredient, so Papa Bear created a porridge-stirrer accessory to add it drop by drop. By now it was dark, and even though Papa Bear thought it wasn’t right to stay, Baby Bear convinced him that one night would be okay.

But when they crawled into bed and turned it on, it rocked so much that it tipped the Bears right onto the floor. There was only one thing to do: “Baby fixed the engine block. / Replace the gears that burned. / Soon the bears were fast asleep… / Then Goldilocks returned.” She saw the chair, tasted the porridge, and then… “heard snoring sounds.” Wide awake now, the bears began to explain. But Goldilocks was not upset. Instead she said, “‘You’ve improved my projects here, / and made them much more fun. / Proving that four brains, by far, / are better than just one!’”

Excited to be inventing again with the bears on board to lend their smart innovations, Goldilocks sends the family off amid promises to “‘…meet up in the spring’” when they will “‘…make the next big thing!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-bed

Image copyright Petros Bouloubasis, 2021, text copyright Sue Fleiss, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

With her fun flip on the Goldilocks story, Sue Fleiss invites kids to indulge their inner inventor with wacky contraptions that can make getting dressed, cooking, going to bed, and chores more exciting. Fleiss’s clever takes on the well-known “just right” chair, porridge, and bed get readers thinking creatively—perhaps even about their own household appliances. While the original story ends with the interloper being chased away, Fleiss’s version shines with the benefits of cooperation, collaboration, and being open to new ideas.

With so many cool inventions to discover on every page, readers will love taking extra time to find and talk about them all. Any young maker would swoon over Petros Bouloubasis’s well-stocked workbench, and readers would have a blast drawing their own gadgets using the tools and supplies depicted. Quirky, abstract landscapes add to the kid-centric ambiance, and just like the Bear family, who drives away in a new vehicle with their full wheelbarrow in tow, readers will look forward to returning to Goldilocks’ little bungalow again and again.

Imagination, creativity, teamwork, and friendship all wrapped up in a clever fractured fairytale—what could be better?! Goldilocks and the Three Engineers is one to add to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807529973

Discover more about Sue Fleiss and her books on her website.

To learn more about Petros Bouloubasis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Week of Making Activity

CPB - Inventor's Tool Kit II (2)

Inventor’s Tool Kit

 

Every idea begins as a jumble of seemingly unrelated parts. Gathering whatever types of material inspires you and keeping it in a box ready to go when inspiration hits is a great way to support innovation and spark experimentation.

Supplies

  • Small parts organizer with drawers or compartments, available at hardware stores and craft stores
  • A variety of parts or craft materials that can be combined, built with, or built on
  • Some hardware ideas—pulleys, wheels, small to medium pieces of wood, wire, nuts, bolts, screws, hooks, knobs, hinges, recyclable materials
  • Some craft ideas—clay, beads, wooden pieces, sticks, paints, pipe cleaners, string, spools, buttons, glitter, scraps of material, recyclable materials

Directions

  1. Fill the organizer with the materials of your choice
  2. Let your imagination go to work! Build something cool, crazy, silly, useful—Amazing!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldilocks-and-the-three-engineers-cover

You can find Goldilocks and the Three Engineers at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 29 – National Tick Tock Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-cover

About the Holiday

As the year winds down Tick Tock Day reminds us of the passage of time and encourages us to examine our life and find opportunities to accomplish the things we really want to. While a day only has 24 hours, a little creative scheduling, letting go of those tasks that aren’t so important, and even saying “no,” can help us achieve the things that matter.

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock

Written by Shana Keller | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

 

With winter approaching Benjamin Banneker has finished up his autumn chores and is looking forward to time to indulge his creative dreams. He finds his favorite spot under the chestnut tree—the place where during the summer he plays his violin and flute, “blending his soft music with the bird’s songs”—and pulls out a pocket watch he has borrowed from a gentleman. Benjamin is fascinated by the ticking and the movement of the small hands. He carefully opens the back of the watch and discovers “a world of wonderful whirls. There were gears of all shapes and sizes. Such a tiny maze!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-studying-pocket-watch

Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

The miniature timepiece is mesmerizing, but Benjamin’s mind holds a challenge—a big challenge. He envisions a large clock, one that chimes to tell the time. Remembering his math skills, Benjamin mulls over the scale needed to turn “something small into something big.” As the snow falls, Benjamin goes to work. First, he dismantles the pocket watch and draws careful diagrams of the gears and workings. Then he begins transposing these into larger drawings.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-flute

Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

With the coming of spring and his drawings finished, Benjamin plans how he will build his clock. While the little pocket watch is made of metal, that material is much too expensive for a large version. As he ponders the problem under his favorite tree, Benjamin looks around him. Suddenly he knows! The answer is “right in front of him, even in his hands! The very instrument he played was made of wood!” There is a forest of trees on his farm, and this material is free.

During the summer between farm chores, Benjamin uses “every spare moment he had to find the perfect pieces of wood.” Once he has enough he begins to convert his drawings into carvings, whittling the gears and other pieces he will need. Soon, however, he becomes discouraged. The wood begins to split and come apart. Benjamin thinks about how his family cures tobacco leaves—drying them out until all the moisture evaporates. Perhaps, he thinks, he can do the same with wood to make it stronger. The process would take months, but Benjamin is patient.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

Winter has come around again, and the wood is finally ready. In his warm house Benjamin sets about carving again. During the day he carves near the sunny window, and at night he works by candlelight. At last he has all the parts he needs to build his clock. Gears, wheels, tiny pins, and the boards that will become the case are scattered across Benjamin’s work table. There is only one piece missing. A piece that cannot be made of wood—the bell!

Benjamin buys a bell from a metalsmith, and back home begins to build his clock. With his drawings to guide him, he fits the gears together and then sets the hands to “match up perfectly with the second, minute, and hour of each day. It took more than one try, but Benjamin had learned to be patient.” Using the sun to determine the correct time, Benjamin positions the hands and steps back. His clock works! “The little iron bell chimed every hour, on the dot, for the next forty years.” Benjamin becomes famous, and neighbors from near and far come “to see his amazing invention.”  

An Author’s Note expanding on Benjamin Banneker’s life and work follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-winter

Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

With lyrical language that glides as smoothly as a well-oiled timepiece, Shana Keller reveals the remarkable story of Benjamin Banneker, born free during the time of slavery, who possessed exceptional math and scientific skills and used them to help his friends and neighbors and to make real his vision of a striking clock. Keller’s detailed and descriptive storytelling animates this life story, allowing readers to take the journey with Banneker as he experiences excitement, setbacks, and ultimately success. Banneker, embodying determination, persistence, and creativity, is an excellent role model for kids with big dreams of their own.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-studying-fall-chores

Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

David C. Gardner’s lovely full-page and two-page-spread illustrations gloriously portray Benjamin Banneker’s farm and home as well as his dedicated commitment to building a striking clock despite—or perhaps spurred on by—the challenges he faced. Gardner’s detailed images set the biography firmly in its time period, letting children experience farm and home life in the 1750s. Banneker carries wooden buckets to feed the animals, tobacco leaves hang in a dry shed, a fire blazes in a large, open fireplace, and a candle flickers as Banneker whittles wheels and gears with his pocket knife. The realistic paintings that depict Banneker’s emotions as he imagines creating a large clock, overcomes obstacles, and studiously works on his drawings and carvings will inspire readers to attempt their own inventions—whatever they may be.

For any would-be inventors, history lovers, tinkerers, and science buffs, Ticktock Banneker’s Clock is a stirring biography that would make an inspirational addition to home, school and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369560

Learn more about Shana Keller and her work on her website!

Discover a portfolio of picture book art, fine art, animation, and videos by David C. Gardner on his website!

Tick Tock Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cuckoo-clock-coloring-page

Cuckoo Clock Coloring Page

 

The chirp of a cuckoo clock keeps you on time—or at least aware of the passing of time! If you like coloring, you’ll enjoy spending time with this printable Cuckoo Clock Coloring Page!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-cover

You can find Ticktock Banneker’s Clock at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 3 – It’s Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-crane-cover

About the Holiday

Read a New Book Month is a fantastic time to scour your local bookstore and library for books that have recently been published or books that are new to you. Finding a book that you’ve never read before is exciting at any age, and discovering a new book about a favorite topic is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Today’s book is definitely one that will lift the spirits of all kids who love vehicles and good stories.

Thanks go to Star Bright Books for sending me a copy of The Little Red Crane for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Star Bright Books in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

The Little Red Crane

By Cornelius Van Wright

 

One day Dex, a little red crane, and his operator Pete received a letter from a place far away asking for help. The next day they set out to begin their long trip. On the way, Pete had to stop his truck to let their friend Larry the Loader Crane pass by. Larry was delivering steel beams to a construction site where a tall building was going up. He steadied himself with his outriggers so he didn’t tip over. Terry the Telescopic Crane was there too, helping to lift the beams into place. They both wondered if Dex would like to help. “No thanks,’ replied Dex. ‘I’m on my way to an incredibly important BIG job.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-crane-letter

Copyright Cornelius Van Wright, 2020, courtesy of Star Bright Books.

When Pete and Dex reached the docks, they met Sam the Ship-Building Crane. He was as tall as a skyscraper and straddled the new ocean liner he was helping to build. Dex would like to have accepted Sam’s invitation to watch, but they were due at Pier 11. When they got there, another giant, Sally the Ship-to-Shore Crane, was waiting to lift Dex and Pete and their truck onto the cargo ship that would take them across the ocean.

After sailing for a few days far out to sea, Dex heard the “sounds of offshore cranes at work” on a huge Oil Rig which was extracting “oil from under the seabed.” Coming close to land at last, the cargo ship passed under a bridge where Dex watched a Floating Crane installing a new section of concrete. Back on land and driving through the city, Dex marveled at the number of cranes he saw. “Giant Tower Cranes were busy helping to construct tall skyscrapers. Dex began to think someone had made a mistake in asking him to come to the city.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-crane-terry

Copyright Cornelius Van Wright, 2020, courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Finally, Pete and Dex arrived at a stately building. Dex felt tiny in the shadow of the mammoth marble columns that flanked the doorway. Inside, Pete used his remote control device to steer “Dex through narrow halls and doorways. Warning: Don’t try this, 18-Wheelers! They stopped in the center of a large room filled with crates. Ahhhhh! It felt good to “unfold and stretch his long legs.”

Carefully, Dex lifted piece after piece from the crates and lifted them into the air so that workers could put them together. Dex may have been little, but he was capable of lifting 2,000 pounds, which came in handy since he had just helped assemble the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex! Pete congratulated Dex on a job well done, and the museum visitors who streamed in to see the exhibit would agree.

An illustrated guide with fascinating facts about each crane, including alternate names for each, descriptions of how they work, and the amount of weight each can lift or carry, follows the story. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-crane-oil-rig

Copyright Cornelius Van Wright, 2020, courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Little fans of big construction vehicles will be awestruck by Cornelius Van Wright’s story and vibrant illustrations. Van Wright understands young reader’s thirst for knowledge, and his straightforward descriptions of the work each type of crane performs are satisfying. The mystery of Dex’s very important job will pique kids’ interest, and the revelation that Dex, because of his small size, is the only kind of crane able to help assemble a dinosaur skeleton is empowering and will delight readers. The pages of back matter are sure to spark further research and learning.

Bold and bright, Van Wright’s illustrations depict realistic and detailed images of each type of crane while the natural formation of grills, headlights, and insignia create the slightly anthropomorphized faces that give each character its personality. In addition to the cranes, Van Wright includes construction materials and proportionate building and ships that allow children to visualize scale. Children will be fascinated by Van Wright’s gorgeous landscapes and seascapes as they learn that cranes work on land as well as on water. Images inside the museum will have kids guessing about the job Dex is about to do, and as he lifts bones and finally the T-rex skull from their crates, you can be sure there will be plenty of exclamations of “Wow!” and “Awesome!”

Sure to fascinate kids interested in vehicles and construction and to have them searching streets and skylines for the real thing, The Little Red Crane is also a unique book for sparking math and early physics extensions on size, scale, measurements, weight, and simple machines for young learners. The book would be a favorite go-to for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 6

Star Bright Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1595728432

To learn more about Cornelius Van Wright, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Follow Dex in this book trailer that’s loads of fun!

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Playful Pulleys

 

Exploring simple machines is fun for kids and a great way to learn about scientific concepts of physics and engineering. With this activity, children can experiment with the idea of pulleys by changing the number of lids the string wraps around, varying the thickness of the string they use, and trying heavy and lighter loads to discover what works and what doesn’t.

Supplies

  • Thick white board or cardboard
  • Plastic jar and bottle lids in various sizes (I used 8 lids)
  • String and/or cord (I used macramé cord). Kids can experiment with various materials, such as ribbon and different weights of string.
  • Binder clip (option: use a small pail or container)
  • Magnet (optional)
  • Small metal items to pick up
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Attach lids to white board or cardboard in a scattered pattern with glue
  2. Cut a 7 or 8-foot length of string or cord
  3. Tie the binder clip to the string, attach the magnet to the bottom
  4. Wrap the string from lid to lid, allowing the two ends of the string to hang free
  5. Pulling the string should raise the binder clip; loosening the string should allow the clip to lower
  6. Put small metal items on the floor and lower the binder clip to pick them up
  7. Have fun experimenting with wrapping the string in various patterns around the lids

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-red-crane-cover

You can find The Little Red Crane at these booksellers

Amazon | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 13 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month with STEM

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About the Holiday

Today I’m featuring two books that bring the world of big machines down to size for little readers. Being introduced to the various parts of favorite machines and what they do can spark a life-long interest in engineering and its many applications!

The Book of Flying Machines

By Neil Clark

Readers join Clever Cogz and his sidekicks, Nutty and Bolt, as they get up-close to airplanes, hot air balloons, helicopters, supersonic jets, and the latest technological advances to fill the skies. Little ones who love air travel or just watching planes soar through the clouds learn all about the “clever parts” that allow these machines to ascend, fly, descend, and land.

After defining the engine, cockpit, fuselage, tail, rudder, wheels, and fins, Clark presents a closer look at the wings, with all of their moving parts “that work together to control the speed and direction of the plane.” But how does a plane stay in the air? Kids discover that a wing’s special shape allows air to travel “faster over the top than it does underneath,” and that “the slow-moving air under the wing creates a force called lift.”  Clever Cogz reveals that “lift is the force that keeps an aircraft in the air.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-the-book-of-flying-machines-helicopter

Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Now that the plane is in the air, how does it move forward? Working together, the engine and the propeller use air to create thrust, and budding engineers get to see just how this works. Next, children get to join Nutty and Bolt in a hot air balloon ride and discover how pilots use the science of hot air to make the balloon rise. They also learn the names of the various parts of these beautiful machines that make them work—and allow them to come back down.

No one can resist watching a helicopter hover overhead, and its ability to “take off and land without a run-up” makes it very useful in emergency situations. Readers get to learn about the engine, the landing skids, the rescue hoist, and the two rotors that provide the power for this unique machine while Bolt comes to Nutty’s aid on his sinking boat. Kids fascinated by speed will love learning about the various types of jets that “travel at supersonic speeds—faster than the speed of sound” and the definition of Mach 1, against which they can compare the speed of jets that fly at Mach 3.3, 6.7, and even 9.6.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-the-book-of-flying-machines-supersonic

Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Of course, kids are familiar with drones, so they’ll be eager to discover how three different types—one that can even predict storms. Finally, flying here and there powered by a jet pack may seem like science fiction, but “real ones have been built for the army, for astronauts, and for spectacular stunt shows,” including the Bell Rocket Belt, which can fly up to 60 mph (95 kmph) and the Jetman, invented by Yves Rossy, that can fly at 100 mph (160 kmph). Along the way, bits of trivia about the history and facts of air flight give kids even more information. A short quiz on the last page lets readers show off what they’ve learned.

Ages 5 – 7

QEB Publishing, 2019 | ISBN 978-0711243446

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The Book of Diggers & Dozers

By Neil Clark

 

Clever Cogz, Nutty, and Bolt are back in this book all about working machines. From backhoe loaders to excavators to bulldozers to the giants and the latest tech wonders, Neil Clark takes readers above and below ground to see how these machines work. Take a moment to get to know the intricate parts of a backhoe, which can lift the weight of three cars with its front loader and dig deep holes with its hydraulic-powered bucket in the back. The spinning seat in the cab makes it easy for the operator to do both jobs! What are hydraulics? Dog Clever Cogz, Nutty, and Bolt demonstrate the concepts on a backhoe and with a water gun.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-the-book-of-diggers-and-dozers-clever-cogz

Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Little ones know tractors belong on farms, but they’ll be surprised at how many jobs they can do using different attachments. There’s even a hole digger that makes planting trees much easier. The excavator may be best known for the tracks that wrap around sprockets and allow it to move over bumpy ground, but its bucket deserves some attention too. It has “an extra part called a thumb” that “turns the bucket into a giant claw, perfect for grabbing things.” Did you know that there are “new, electric powered excavators that will help keep our planet clean?”

The tallest machines are cranes—and “the biggest mobile crane is over 800 feet (245 m) high.” Nutty tells kids “that’s as tall as 50 giraffes standing on top of each other!” A crane’s height and power help it move objects too heavy to move any other way. When roads need fixing and repaving, it’s time to break out the road roller. These useful machines have been around since 1800, when horses pulled them. The steamroller was invented in 1865, and the diesel-powered version came along in 1950. The new road rollers are electric and better for the environment.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-the-book-of-diggers-and-dozers-working-machines

Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Fans of the bulldozer will see what a powerhouse this machine really is. With high tracks to allow it to travel through muddy ground, a ripper that claws at the ground and breaks up big lumps of earth, and a blade that can push piles of rock or sand or even knock down a building, the bulldozer is multi-functional. Whoa! Have you seen the Bagger 293? “It’s the biggest digger in the world” and its bucket wheel can dig “240,000 tons of coal a day.” It’s so big that it requires as much electricity as a whole town and needs 5 people to control it. Today, robot diggers controlled remotely, such as sensors, demolition bots, and the XE15R, are also taking on tasks in dangerous, tight, or other situations. A final quiz lets children review what they’ve learned.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-the-book-of-diggers-and-dozers-bagger-293

Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Neil Clark’s fascinating looks at aircraft and the biggest machines will delight vehicle lovers of all types. His straightforward text is accessible for all ages while introducing children to vocabulary and concepts that empower them to understand the workings of not only these big machines but smaller, everyday machines as well. Loaded with information and hosted by charming characters who lend a bit of humor to the pages, Clark’s books are wonderful for dipping into again and again.

Clark’s vivid illustrations clearly mark and define the parts of each machine and demonstrate how these work together to power the machine and allow it to perform its job. Nutty and Bolt are there to translate some of the concepts into ideas kids are already familiar with (for example, Nutty wears big shoes to demonstrate the function of a backhoe’s stabilizers). Similarly, Clark incorporates easy-to-understand graphics to explain scientific concepts like air flow and the clustering of hot and cold air molecules. Boxed information and speech bubbles add interest to the pages. One even invites kids to a “where’s Waldo” type of hunt for Nutty and Bolt near a jumbo jet.

Terrific books for introducing all children to machines, how they work, and the science behind them, The Book of Flying Machines and The Book of Diggers & Dozers would be valuable additions to home, classroom, and public library collections. Check out the other books in the series: The Book of Cars and Trucks and The Book of Space Rockets.

Ages 5 – 7

QEB Publishing, 2019 | ISBN 978-071124341

Read a New Book Month with STEM Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-digger-coloring-page

Big Machines Coloring Pages

 

Children can have fun coloring and adding their own touches to these printable pages.

Airplane | Hot Air Balloon | Digger | Crane

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-the-book-of-flying-machines-cover

You can find The Book of Flying Machines at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-the-book-of-diggers-and-dozers-cover

You can find The Book of Diggers & Dozers at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review