The best children's books for budding inventors

The Books I Picked & Why

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

By Hannah Holt, Jay Fleck

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.


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ADA Byron Lovelace & the Thinking Machine

By Laurie Wallmark, April Chu

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.


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

By Kirsten Larson, Tracy Subisak

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.


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Patricia's Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight

By Michelle Lord, Alleanna Harris

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.


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

By Chris Barton, Don Tate

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.


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