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WHO INVENTED THIS? by Anne Ameri-Siemens


Smart People and Their Bright Ideas

by Anne Ameri-Siemens ; illustrated by Becky Thorns ; translated by David Henry Wilson

Pub Date: April 27th, 2021
ISBN: 978-3-89955-133-4
Publisher: Little Gestalten

From airplanes to zippers, a gallery of ubiquitous gadgets, products, and basic discoveries.

In an apparently arbitrarily ordered assortment of one- to three-page entries, Ameri-Siemens recaps around three dozen stories of invention, from Gutenberg’s printing press (1440) to the World Wide Web (1989). Though the inventors introduced are predominantly White, male, and Eurocentric, her choices include nods to a few African Americans such as Garrett Morgan (hair-straightening cream, automatic traffic light) and Thomas J. Martin (a type of fire extinguisher). White women spotlighted include Nancy Johnson (ice cream maker) and Jeanne Villepreux (glass aquarium) and, in an entry misleadingly titled “Computer,” Ada Lovelace, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, and Grace Hopper. Neglecting to provide any sources or evidence, she also makes questionable claims that, for instance, the Brothers Grimm were the first to record oral folktales in print and—hilariously—the Millennium Falcon’s top speed is only half again the speed of light. Showing the same hand wave–y spirit, Thorns presents an unidentified trio of Black women presumably meant to represent the “computers” of NASA rather than the much earlier ones at Harvard that the author mentions. Still, readers will likely look in vain through similar chronicles of invention to find the origins of, say, ramen noodles, soccer boots, toothpaste, or carbonated beverages.

This German import is an unsystematic jumble—but tailor-made for dipping and flipping.

(Nonfiction. 10-13)