The best children's books for budding inventors

Who am I?

As a child, I loved stories about people who accomplished extraordinary things – I read our set of encyclopedias from cover to cover. Those first forays into research stood me in good stead when I started writing nonfiction picture books about people who believed that nothing is impossible if you can imagine it – people like Robert Goddard who climbed a cherry tree when he was 13 and looked at the moon and decided he was going to build a vehicle that could take people there. As a teacher and as a parent, I read picture books on a daily basis, and as a writer for children, I love sparking the curiosity of young readers.


I wrote...

From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves

By Vivian Kirkfield, Gilbert Ford (illustrator),

Book cover of From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves

What is my book about?

In a time when people believed flying was impossible, the Montgolfier brothers proved that the sky wasn’t the limit. When most thought horseback was the only way to race, Bertha and Karl Benz fired up their engines. From the invention of the bicycle to the first liquid-fuel propelled rocket, this collective biography tells the stories of the experiments, failures, and successes of visionaries who changed the way the world moves and sparks the curiosity of young children to think about what they might invent to make the world a better place.

The books I picked & why

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The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds & the Life of H. Tracy Hall

By Hannah Holt, Jay Fleck (illustrator),

Book cover of The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds & the Life of H. Tracy Hall

Why this book?

We often tell our children that they are like precious jewels – and this story shows them how the struggles of nature and the struggles of life can hone a rock…and a person…into something glorious! I love how the author shows the process that creates a natural diamond side by side with the process that created the person who invented the first machine to produce industrial diamonds. This true story of the author’s grandfather includes vibrant back matter to inform the reader without slowing down the gripping and heartfelt narrative. My favorite books unfold with stories about true people who persevered against immense challenges – and The Diamond and the Boy checks every box.

The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds & the Life of H. Tracy Hall

By Hannah Holt, Jay Fleck (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Diamond and the Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Told in a unique dual-narrative format, The Diamond and the Boy follows the stories of both natural diamond creation and the life of H. Tracy Hall, the inventor of a revolutionary diamond-making machine. Perfect for fans of Rosie Revere, Engineer, and On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein. This nonfiction picture book is an excellent choice to share during homeschooling, in particular for children ages 4 to 6. It’s a fun way to learn to read and as a supplement for activity books for children.

Before a diamond is a gem, it’s a common gray rock called…


ADA Byron Lovelace & the Thinking Machine

By Laurie Wallmark, April Chu (illustrator),

Book cover of ADA Byron Lovelace & the Thinking Machine

Why this book?

Picture books are a unique genre because there are really three people who participate in telling the story – the author, the illustrator, and the children who are reading and/or listening. With each page turn, ADA Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine brings us to another time and allows us to become part of that history – a time before computers and other electronic devices proliferated our lives and before women in science were accepted. The lush illustrations and the lyrical text capture my heart each time I read this book, and I love how we get a small peek into the life of the main character’s famous parents, Lord Byron, and Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke.

ADA Byron Lovelace & the Thinking Machine

By Laurie Wallmark, April Chu (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked ADA Byron Lovelace & the Thinking Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world's first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities.


Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane

By Kirsten Larson, Tracy Subisak (illustrator),

Book cover of Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane

Why this book?

How amazing to discover that the airplane designed by the Wright brothers was improved upon by a young woman who loved to tinker and invent in a time when females were supposed to sip tea and embroider doilies. It’s so important for young children to have strong role models – people who create things that make the world a better place. Kids also need to see that repeated failures are no reason to stop. Emma Lilian Todd persevered through many challenges and experienced many failures before she fashioned an airplane that really flew. Wood, Wire, Wings is sure to inspire many young girls and boys to believe in themselves and to follow their passion to a life of purpose.

Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane

By Kirsten Larson, Tracy Subisak (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Wood, Wire, Wings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book * NSTA Best STEM Book List

This riveting nonfiction picture book biography explores both the failures and successes of self-taught engineer Emma Lilian Todd as she tackles one of the greatest challenges of the early 1900s: designing an airplane.

Emma Lilian Todd's mind was always soaring--she loved to solve problems. Lilian tinkered and fiddled with all sorts of objects, turning dreams into useful inventions. As a child, she took apart and reassembled clocks to figure out how they worked. As an adult, typing up patents at the U.S. Patent Office, Lilian built the inventions…


Patricia's Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight

By Michelle Lord, Alleanna Harris (illustrator),

Book cover of Patricia's Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight

Why this book?

Having experienced several eye operations, I really connected with this story about a female African American ophthalmologist who pioneered laser surgery and received a patent for the ingenious device used to perform the delicate procedure of removing cataracts. An important book on so many layers, Patricia's Vision is a mirror for children in marginalized groups to see themselves as successful professionals, a window for other children to observe a diverse person in the role of an inventor and a doctor, and a sliding glass door for all to envision their own endless possibilities. The story also shows how young Patricia Bath grew up with hopes and dreams, and plans of what might be – and it will empower young readers today to build their dreams into reality.

Patricia's Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight

By Michelle Lord, Alleanna Harris (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Patricia's Vision as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiring story of Dr Patricia Bath, a groundbreaking ophthalmologist who pioneered laser surgery - and gave her patients the gift of sight. Born in the 1940s, Patricia Bath dreamed of being an ophthalmologist at a time when becoming a doctor wasn't a career option for most women, especially African-American women. This empowering biography follows Dr Bath in her quest to save and restore sight to the blind, and her decision to "choose miracles" when everyone else had given up hope. Along the way, she co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, invented a specialised laser for removing…


Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

By Chris Barton, Don Tate (illustrator),

Book cover of Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Why this book?

Whoosh! Just the title makes me want to read this book – and the cover art by the incredible Don Tate invites me in. I love that the story shows us the creative boy who grew up tinkering with gears and gaskets, screws, and sandpaper – squirreling away bits and pieces of whatever he thought could be turned into something wonderful born from his imagination. Plus, finding a book about a diverse inventor written by a diverse author and illustrated by a diverse artist is frosting on an already delicious cake. The story explains how the main character, Lonnie Johnson, was supposed to be designing a new cooling system for refrigerators, but accidentally came up with what is one of the top twenty toys of all time. Kids will delight in knowing that mistakes can have a successful ending.

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

By Chris Barton, Don Tate (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrate the inventor of the Super Soaker in this inspiring picture book biography about Lonnie Johnson, the maker behind one of the world's favorite toys.

 
You know the Super Soaker. It’s one of top twenty toys of all time. And it was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, impressive inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy.
 
A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity began early in Lonnie Johnson’s life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, persistence and a…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in women in mathematics, pilots, and World War 2?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about women in mathematics, pilots, and World War 2.

Women In Mathematics Explore 11 books about women in mathematics
Pilots Explore 34 books about pilots
World War 2 Explore 1142 books about World War 2

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Queen of Physics, Dream Builder, and Martin's Big Words if you like this list.