The best children’s picture books about inventors

Who am I?

I love to get kids fired up about true stories, using their imaginations and believing in themselves as future innovators, inventors, and creators. Crayola crayons inventor Edwin Binney's story is a fabulous springboard for exploring nature, color and creativity. I love to draw and make stuff just like Binney, so his story resonated with me. The more I researched, the more I admired how he listened to what people needed and looked to nature for inspiration. I am intrigued by the origins of everyday objects. Here are some books that inspired me when I was writing, and that have that fascinating a-ha moment that spurs on innovation.

I wrote...

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

By Natascha Biebow, Steven Salerno (illustrator),

Book cover of The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

What is my book about?

What child doesn't love to hold a crayon in their hands? But before Edwin Binney set out to change things, children couldn't really even draw in color. Here’s the true story of the inventor who so loved nature’s vibrant colors that he found a way to bring the outside world to children – in a bright green box for only a nickel! Discover how Binney and his team at Crayola created one of the world’s most enduring, best-loved toys – empowering children to dream and draw in color

Winner of the Irma Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, NSTA best STEM book, ILA Children's Choice Reading List, Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.

The books I picked & why

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Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented

By Tanya Lee Stone, Steven Salerno (illustrator),

Book cover of Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented

Why this book?

I am fascinated by how everyday objects are invented, and in this book, readers will discover the real story of how the beloved Monopoly board game was created. The story is often misreported with the credit attributed to Charles Darrow, the man who popularized the game and sold it to the Parker Brothers. In fact, the game was invented by Lizzie Magie, who wanted to draw attention to financial inequality. The author challenges readers to decide – who was the real winner? Because, ironically, Magie sold her patent for only $500, while Darrow stood to make millions and appropriated the credit for the invention. But without the changes and improvements to the game made by the two of them, perhaps nobody would get to play Monopoly as we know it today.  

Snowflake Bentley

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Mary Azarian (illustrator),

Book cover of Snowflake Bentley

Why this book?

This beautiful picture book showcases the life of the man who invented a way to photograph snowflakes and revealed that no two are alike. William Bentley, the boy who loved snow more than anything else in the world, spent hours in the cold studying ice crystals. Even when they constantly melted, he didn’t quit until he managed to photograph them! His images of stunning, intricate, unique snowflakes are a testament to the wonder of nature and perseverance.

The Inventor's Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford

By Suzanne Slade, Jennifer Black Reinhardt (illustrator),

Book cover of The Inventor's Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford

Why this book?

We’ve all heard of these two inventors, but I hadn’t heard of the time they met. The title immediately intrigues and hooks in readers  – what did Ford and Edison learn from each other? Curiosity was a trait they shared that got them both into heaps of trouble and spurred them on to explore, innovate and create life-changing inventions. But before Henry successfully invented the Ford car, he looked longingly at Edison’s numerous successful inventions. What was the secret of his success? “Keep at it!” – such a simple, empowering tip, one that everyone can find inspiring and encouraging, especially young readers.

Mimic Makers: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature

By Kristen Nordstrom, Paul Boston (illustrator),

Book cover of Mimic Makers: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature

Why this book?

Featuring ten inventions inspired by nature, this book explores how scientists, architects, and engineers can find innovative solutions right there, in the world around them. For example, the shape of the kingfisher’s beak helped to design a quieter, speed-busting Japanese train, and the tiny Namibian beetle, a way to collect drinking water in the desert. At a time when people are increasingly disconnected from nature and our planet is endangered, these true stories are a fantastic and humbling reminder of how clever nature really is and what we can gain if we stop to look, listen and innovate. 

Nacho's Nachos: The Story Behind the World's Favorite Snack

By Sandra Nickel, Oliver Dominguez (illustrator),

Book cover of Nacho's Nachos: The Story Behind the World's Favorite Snack

Why this book?

Who doesn’t like to eat something yummy? But do you ever think about how this food came about? The serendipitous events that led to the creation of a favourite snack – nachos – begin with a Mexican boy, Ignacio Anaya. He loved to eat and cook and was nicknamed . . . Nacho. One day, when asked to create a snack at short notice at a restaurant, Ignacio used whatever he had to hand – corn tortillas, cheddar cheese, and jalapeño peppers. His creation soon became a favourite, and now global, snack – nachos. This delicious true story will inspire young readers to create spontaneously with whatever ingredients are available, and to discover how being inventive in the kitchen, just like this young chef, can be heaps of fun!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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