Dedicating her newest offering to Leonardo da Vinci, “My special hero of invention,” Williams sweeps through the entire history of inventions, from ball (“an unknown Stone Age child, c. 40,000 B.C.”) to ball-point (Ladislao Biro, 1938). Framing sequential comic book–style panels in banter and bits of fact delivered by a flock of birds, she highlights 11 important figures, adding spreads devoted to women, to “Inventors of Useful Things” and in closing, to several dozen favorites, including such modern necessities as the chocolate bar (François Louis Cailler, 1819) and the self-cleaning house (Frances Gabe, 1950). She’s not much for depth of detail, but her brightly colored cartoons, crowded with tiny, expressively drawn figures, create an irresistibly celebratory tone, and by pairing familiar names with lesser-known but no less deserving precursors—Richard Trevithick with George Stephenson, Antonio Meucci with Alexander Graham Bell—she counters the more simplistic accounts common in other titles. An exuberant alternative to Judith St. George’s skimpier but more analytical So You Want to Be an Inventor (2002), illus by David Small. (index) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7636-2760-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2005


From the Ada Lace series , Vol. 1

The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the...

Using science and technology, third-grader Ada Lace kicks off her new series by solving a mystery even with her leg in a cast.

Temporarily housebound after a badly executed bungee jump, Ada uses binoculars to document the ecosystem of her new neighborhood in San Francisco. She records her observations in a field journal, a project that intrigues new friend Nina, who lives nearby. When they see that Ms. Reed’s dog, Marguerite, is missing, they leap to the conclusion that it has been stolen. Nina does the legwork and Ada provides the technology for their search for the dognapper. Story-crafting takes a back seat to scene-setting in this series kickoff that introduces the major players. As part of the series formula, science topics and gadgetry are integrated into the stories and further explained in a “Behind the Science” afterword. This installment incorporates drones, a wireless camera, gecko gloves, and the Turing test as well as the concept of an ecosystem. There are no ethnic indicators in the text, but the illustrations reveal that Ada, her family, and bratty neighbor Milton are white; Nina appears to be Southeast Asian; and Mr. Peebles, an inventor who lives nearby, is black.

The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the chapter-book world. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8599-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017


Spinning lively invented details around skimpy historical records, Taylor profiles the 19th-century chef credited with inventing the potato chip. Crum, thought to be of mixed Native-American and African-American ancestry, was a lover of the outdoors, who turned cooking skills learned from a French hunter into a kitchen job at an upscale resort in New York state. As the story goes, he fried up the first batch of chips in a fit of pique after a diner complained that his French fries were cut too thickly. Morrison’s schoolroom, kitchen and restaurant scenes seem a little more integrated than would have been likely in the 1850s, but his sinuous figures slide through them with exaggerated elegance, adding a theatrical energy as delicious as the snack food they celebrate. The author leaves Crum presiding over a restaurant (also integrated) of his own, closes with a note separating fact from fiction and also lists her sources. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-58430-255-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview