Casual browsers will come away mightily amused; would-be inventors will find here fresh inspiration, as well as...

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INVENTIONS THAT COULD HAVE CHANGED THE WORLD...BUT DIDN'T!

From “Smell-O-Vision” to a motorized pogo stick and an edible smartphone case, this romp through Patent Office records is a hilarious tribute to misapplied ingenuity.

“The world is bursting with ideas,” Rhatigan observes. “Unfortunately, not all of these ideas are good.” In support, he digs up dozens of unlikely proposals—some of which, like Henry Ford’s early Quadricycle and Thomas Edison’s Talking Doll, were harbingers of truly world-changing innovations. Most, though, like the Reid Flying Submarine, 19th-century rocking bathtubs, a suggestive party-game version of cup-and-ball played at waist level and the aforementioned movie theater “Smell-O-Vision” (and a competing technology, “AromaRama”) never got off the ground due to obvious design flaws, expense or just inadequate marketing. Still, all were concocted in a spirit of enterprise, and by way of a hat tip, the author names nearly all of their inventors, renowned or otherwise. Owsley’s cartoon visualizations of selected inventions in action join original patent drawings and occasional photos to provide comical commentary as much as to clarify physical and functional details.

Casual browsers will come away mightily amused; would-be inventors will find here fresh inspiration, as well as encouragement to give their own wildest ideas a try. (resource list, subject and inventor indexes) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62354-024-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals.

EXPLORING SPACE

FROM GALILEO TO THE MARS ROVER AND BEYOND

Finely detailed cutaway views of spacecraft and satellites launch a broad account of space exploration’s past, present, and near future.

Jenkins begins with the journey of Voyager I, currently the “most distant man-made object ever,” then goes back to recap the history of astronomy, the space race, and the space-shuttle program. He goes on to survey major interplanetary probes and the proliferating swarm of near-Earth satellites, then closes with reflections on our current revived interest in visiting Mars and a brief mention of a proposed “space elevator.” This is all familiar territory, at least to well-read young skywatchers and would-be astronauts, and despite occasional wry observations (“For longer stays [in space], things to consider include staying fit and healthy, keeping clean, and not going insane”) it reads more like a digest than a vivid, ongoing story. Biesty’s eye for exact, precise detail is well in evidence in the illustrations, though, and if one spread of generic residents of the International Space Station is the only place his human figures aren’t all white and male, at least he offers riveting depictions of space gear and craft with every last scientific instrument and structural element visible and labeled.

A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals. (index, timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8931-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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