The best children’s picture books about inventors

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

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The books I picked & why

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

Natascha Biebow Why did I love 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.  

By Tanya Lee Stone, Steven Salerno (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pass Go and Collect $200 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

In the late 1800s lived Lizzie Magie, a clever and charismatic woman with a strong sense of justice. Waves of urban migration drew Lizzie's attention to rising financial inequality. Suddenly she had an idea: create a game about the landlord-tenant relationship. But Lizzie's initial game vilified the monopolist. Enter Charles Darrow - a marketer and salesman with a keen eye for what Lizzie's creation could become: an enticing board game, and a staple of family entertainment in households across America.

Boldness, imagination, and ruthless competition combine in this riveting story that sets the record straight on the history of Monopoly's…


Book cover of Snowflake Bentley

Natascha Biebow Why did I love 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.

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Mary Azarian (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Snowflake Bentley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the time he was a small boy, Wilson Bentley saw snowflakes as small miracles. And he determined that one day his camera would capture for others the wonder of the tiny crystal. Bentley's enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in his time, but his patience and determination revealed two important truths: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is startlingly beautiful. His story is gracefully told and brought to life in lovely woodcuts, giving children insight into a soul who had not only a scientist's vision and perseverance but a clear passion for the wonders of nature.…


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

Natascha Biebow Why did I love 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.

By Suzanne Slade, Jennifer Black Reinhardt (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Inventor's Secret as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

* 2017 NSTA Best STEM Book List K-12* * NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 *
Thomas Edison and Henry Ford started off as insatiably curious tinkerers. That curiosity led them to become inventors--with very different results. As Edison invented hit after commercial hit, gaining fame and fortune, Henry struggled to make a single invention (an affordable car) work. Witnessing Thomas's glorious career from afar, a frustrated Henry wondered about the secret to his success.

This little-known story is a fresh, kid-friendly way to show how Thomas Edison and Henry Ford grew up to be the most famous…


Book cover of Mimic Makers: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature

Natascha Biebow Why did I love 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. 

By Kristen Nordstrom, Paul Boston (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mimic Makers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Young readers will be captivated by the contemporary inventors and inventions featured, and inspired to incorporate biomimicry into their own designs.”
—Miranda Paul, author of One Plastic Bag and Water is Water

Who's the best teacher for scientists, engineers, AND designers? Mother nature, of course!

When an inventor is inspired by nature for a new creation, they are practicing something called biomimicry. Meet ten real-life scientists, engineers, and designers who imitate plants and animals to create amazing new technology. An engineer shapes the nose of his train like a kingfisher's beak. A scientist models her solar cell on the mighty…


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

Natascha Biebow Why did I love 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!

By Sandra Nickel, Oliver Dominguez (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nacho's Nachos as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Celebrating 80 Years of Nachos with NACHO'S NACHOS! In Nacho's Nachos, Sandra Nickel and Oliver Dominguez introduce young readers to Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya and tell the true story of how he invented the world's most beloved snack in a moment of culinary inspiration.


You might also like...

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

Book cover of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

Rebecca Wellington Author Of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am adopted. For most of my life, I didn’t identify as adopted. I shoved that away because of the shame I felt about being adopted and not truly fitting into my family. But then two things happened: I had my own biological children, the only two people I know to date to whom I am biologically related, and then shortly after my second daughter was born, my older sister, also an adoptee, died of a drug overdose. These sequential births and death put my life on a new trajectory, and I started writing, out of grief, the history of adoption and motherhood in America. 

Rebecca's book list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption

What is my book about?

I grew up thinking that being adopted didn’t matter. I was wrong. This book is my journey uncovering the significance and true history of adoption practices in America. Now, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women’s reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, I am uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption.

The history of adoption, reframed through the voices of adoptees like me, and mothers who have been forced to relinquish their babies, blows apart old narratives about adoption, exposing the fallacy that adoption is always good.

In this story, I reckon with the pain and unanswered questions of my own experience and explore broader issues surrounding adoption in the United States, including changing legal policies, sterilization, and compulsory relinquishment programs, forced assimilation of babies of color and Indigenous babies adopted into white families, and other liabilities affecting women, mothers, and children. Now is the moment we must all hear these stories.

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

What is this book about?

Nearly every person in the United States is affected by adoption. Adoption practices are woven into the fabric of American society and reflect how our nation values human beings, particularly mothers. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women's reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, Rebecca C. Wellington is uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption. Wellington's timely-and deeply researched-account amplifies previously marginalized voices and exposes the social and racial biases embedded in the United States' adoption industry.…


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