Sharing picture books about inventors is a great way to provide elementary kids with real-life examples of perseverance and creative problem-solving. By immersing students in imaginative stories about inventors, we can ignite their passion for creating and problem-solving.
Let’s explore what I consider some of the best books on inventions and ways to use them to inspire and nurture the young inventors in your classroom. These are not picture books about famous inventors for kids. I wanted to showcase imaginative picture books about relatively unknown inventors who are not usually introduced in science or social studies classes.
#1 Picture Book About Inventors: Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
Of all the picture books about inventors I am sharing in this post, my number one pick is Whoosh! the story of Lonnie Johnson, the fascinating man who invented the Super Soaker water gun. I don’t know a single kid who doesn’t like to play with water guns which makes Whoosh! a great read for the end of the year before school gets out for the summer.
Lonnie’s story starts off when he was a kid, full of creativity and questions about how the world works. He was totally into science and engineering—always figuring out how things work. And his curiosity? It was unstoppable! It guided him through the difficulties of inventing, even leading him to become a NASA engineer.
The great thing about this book is how it shows Lonnie’s journey. From tinkering in his backyard to working with NASA and inventing the Super Soaker, it’s a real testament to never giving up on your dreams.
The illustrations in Whoosh! are amazing, too. They’re so full of color and energy, just like Lonnie himself. You can almost feel the excitement of a Super Soaker water battle coming right off the page!
But what I love most about this book is its message. It shows kids it is important for them to follow their passions and not be afraid of challenges. Lonnie’s story demonstrates how perseverance and creativity can pay off and make life more fun.
Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum
Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy is one of my favorite picture books about inventors. It tells the fascinating story behind creating one of the world’s most loved treats.
This book introduces readers to Walter Diemer, an ordinary accountant working at a gum factory who finds himself at the center of an accidental invention. Walter stumbles upon the perfect recipe for a gum that stretches and blows bubbles.
The pages of Pop! come alive with colorful and comic-like illustrations. The scenes of children and adults blowing bubbles capture the essence of the fun and delight that bubble gum brings.
Through Walter’s story, kids learn about the invention process and the importance of embracing experimentation and thinking outside the box. This fun picture book emphasizes the value of perseverance and the idea that great things can come from unexpected places.
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Marvelous Mattie tells the fascinating story of the extraordinary Mattie Knight, a young female inventor with an unwavering passion for innovation. She was a real trailblazer for women during the 19th century. Most picture books about inventors are about males, so I was very excited to find this book.
Mattie was a curious and creative kid who loved tinkering. No matter what was happening around her, she refused to let anything stop her from pursuing her dreams – not even the fact that she was a girl in a time when women doing anything outside the home besides teaching or nursing was frowned upon.
The book highlights some really cool things Mattie invented, including the machine that makes flat-bottomed paper bags. This might not sound like much of an invention to you, but paper bags became a game changer for many stores.
Marvelous Mattie encourages kids to be creative, to stay curious, and to keep pushing forward, even when things get tough.
The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring
Have you ever wondered about the story behind the Slinky, that iconic toy that’s captivated kids for generations? Well, the fantastic picture book The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring, The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation, tells that tale. And it all began with an accident!
Richard James was an ordinary man who was an ordinary engineer with an extraordinary mind. One day, he was at his desk when a spring tumbled off, but instead of just plopping down, it started to “walk.” Light bulb moment for Richard! He saw the potential in that spring and turned it into the Slinky, a toy that’s brought so much joy to billions of kids everywhere.
Through Richard’s story, kids learn that even accidental discoveries can lead to something big and that their own ideas are worth exploring.
The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth
The Boy Who Invented TV by Kathleen Krull is about Philo Farnsworth, the genius who brought television into our living rooms.
Philo was just a farm boy from Idaho with an imagination that soared beyond the fields. He had this grand idea of transmitting moving pictures electronically. He created the first working television system despite many challenges and setbacks.
The author includes an afterward that covers Philo’s lawsuit against RCA and how his high school science teacher testified that Philo’s invention of the television was years before RCA’s.
What I appreciate about this book is how it showcases the power of dreams and perseverance. It’s inspiring to see Philo’s determination and how he never lost faith in his ideas. I think this would encourage our kids to believe in their own ideas and not give up when things get tough.
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille is a beautifully illustrated picture book. It tells the inspirational story of Louis, a young boy who damaged his eye with one of his father’s tools, which led to an infection that left him blind. Despite losing his sight at a young age, Louis never let his disability deter his thirst for knowledge.
Louis’ family sent him to the Royal School for the Blind in Paris when he was just 10. One day, a teacher introduced the class to a military touch code, sparking Louis’s idea for a “touch” alphabet for the blind. After years of dedication, he developed what we know today as the Braille alphabet. We use this system worldwide to enable blind people to read and write.
The book includes additional resources about Louis Braille and his life-changing invention. It also features the Braille alphabet on the front and back endpapers.
What sets this book apart is its powerful message. It celebrates resilience, innovation, and the importance of equal educational opportunities. Through Louis’s story, the book teaches young readers about empathy, inclusivity, and the power of innovation. It sends a powerful message that anyone can bring about significant change regardless of their circumstances.
The Boo-Boos That Changed The World
Did you know Band-Aids were invented entirely by accident? The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story about an Accidental Invention (Really!) gives us the whole scoop.
Earle Dickson was an employee of Johnson & Johnson in the 1920s, and he had an accident-prone wife. She had a knack for getting minor cuts and scrapes in the kitchen. Determined to help her out, Earle created an easy way for her to cover her injuries. Thus, the Band-Aid was born!
But the story doesn’t stop there. The bosses at Johnson & Johnson doubted the usefulness of Earle’s bandage. But after the Boy Scouts of America approved Earle’s invention, Band-Aids became available to the public. Once Band-Aids hit the shelves, they sold like hotcakes.
I absolutely love this book. It showcases the power of problem-solving, persistence, and a little luck. More than just an entertaining read, it encourages children to see the potential of everyday objects and understand that accidents can lead to great things!
The Crayon Man
The Crayon Man by Natascha Biebow tells the story of Edwin Binney, the guy who gave us Crayola crayons. It is a colorful celebration of imagination and creativity.
Edwin was a curious and creative kind of guy. One day, he had this big idea: to create a coloring tool that would put a rainbow in every child’s hand. And that’s just what he did. His invention? The first box of Crayola crayons. Edwin’s crayons changed the way kids would color and create forever.
This book is bursting with vivid illustrations that capture the magic of Crayola crayons. It’s like diving headfirst into a world of color and imagination. In fact, it reminded me of walking through an exhibit at Disney World.
But the book isn’t just a fun read—it’s also a lesson in perseverance, innovation, and the importance of embracing our unique ideas. It teaches us the power of creativity and the lasting impact of Edwin’s invention. After all, Crayola crayons have become a go-to tool for artists and children everywhere.
You can download my book companion to The Crayon Man from my TpT store.
How The Cookie Crumbled
I stumbled upon How the Cookie Crumbled: The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie about two years ago while researching activities to celebrate National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.
This engaging picture book unravels the captivating history and legends surrounding the creation of the beloved chocolate chip cookie. From the popular story of Ruth Wakefield accidentally creating the recipe at her Toll House Inn to the myths and rumors that have emerged over the years, the book presents a tasty mix of true and not-so-true accounts.
What’s really wonderful is how the book encourages kids to think about creativity, luck, and our everlasting love for chocolate chip cookies. It also sparks discussions about storytelling and folklore and how legends are born. It might be a tasty addition to your classroom library!
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Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life
Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life is a great read for third graders. Although Hedy Lamarr is most famous for being a glamorous movie star in the 1930s and 40s, she wore many hats, including being a movie producer, inventor, and fundraiser. She proved to the world that beauty and brains do mix.
Hedy loved to invent and improve things. Although she was a famous actress, during breaks on the movie set, Hedy would work on her inventions. Some of her creations included a flavor cube that changed plain water into soda and a new traffic signal.
During World War II, Hedy and George Antheil, a talented musician, teamed up to create something truly extraordinary. They devised a new type of communication system. Their creation, called frequency hopping, was when the transmitter and the receiver of a communication system switched frequencies simultaneously. This tactic made it impossible for anyone to intercept their radio waves, giving the torpedoes an advantage in finding their target. This technology was later used to develop Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology.
Why You Should Share Picture Books About Inventors and Inventions with Your Class
May is National Inventors Month and a great time to share picture books about inventors with your kiddos. But you should also share the stories of inventors throughout the year. Here are my top three reasons for sharing picture books about inventors with my classes.
- Creativity and Imagination: Inventors often think outside the box and imagine new possibilities. Sharing these books nurtures creativity and imagination in children, encouraging them to explore unconventional ideas and embrace their imagination.
- Problem-Solving Skills: Inventors face challenges and solve problems; picture books about inventors can teach children valuable problem-solving skills. They showcase the process of identifying problems, thinking critically, and coming up with inventive solutions.
- Persistence and Resilience: Inventions often involve trial and error, setbacks, and perseverance. Picture books about inventors teach kids the value of persistence, resilience, and the importance of not giving up in the face of challenges.