From School Library Journal
Grade 3-6–This oversize, entertaining book provides the stories behind some of the world's greater and lesser inventions. Beginning with a dedication to Leonardo da Vinci, it includes Johannes Gutenberg and the printing press; James Watt and the steam condenser; the Wright brothers; Guglielmo Marconi and the radio; and John Logie Baird and the television. In addition, there are chapters on useful inventions like toilet paper and postage stamps as well as one on the women responsible for coffee filters, teddy bears, and windshield wipers. Another chapter covers the author's favorite inventions, such as hula hoops, Legos, pencils, and the sandwich. Using a comic-book format, Williams reveals how the inventors got their ideas and sponsors as well as their obstacles and failed attempts. Readers may find some of the information surprising; for instance, in 2002 the U.S. Congress proclaimed Antonio Meucci the true inventor of the telephone. Williams also emphasizes how many inventions build on earlier ones. Without the radio, no TV. Without the TV, no video. Without the video, no DVD. The pen-and-ink and watercolor cartoons are crammed full of clever and humorous details. Animals appear on the borders, offering droll asides and assorted trivia. While the overall effect is appealing, the pages are already quite busy without them. Still, children will enjoy the format and learn some valuable lessons about the history and spirit of invention.–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
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Gr. 3-5. In contrast to the many earnest books on inventors and inventions, Williams' large-format volume takes a light approach, presenting information in small parcels and illustrating it with cartoon-style ink-and-watercolor drawings. A few inventors, such as Gutenberg, Marconi, and the Wright brothers, are featured in two- or four-page spreads, which include frame-to-frame narratives about their lives and their most famous achievements. Others are named and briefly identified in small, illustrated boxes as part of a multiperson presentation. For example, the double-page spread on "Inventors of Useful Things" includes 26 boxes spotlighting inventors of devices such as eyeglasses (1280), the toothpaste tube (1892), and the personal computer (1977). The pages bustle with activity, often marked with a certain zany humor. Characters featured in the longer biographies act out roles and speak bits of dialogue within the frames, while below, a running commentary tells the story, and in the margins, little birds and turtles remark on the stories and add humorous quips. Pair this with Judith St. George's So
You Want to Be an Inventor (2002) and give both to budding inventors. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved