When I was growing up, there were very few biographies written for young readers. The few that I was able to get my hands on were, for the most part, rather dry and dull. I certainly don't recall ever reading a historical fiction biography. Thankfully the children's book world has changed a great deal since then, and now many authors are creating excellent nonfiction biographies and historical fiction biographies that are both interesting and informative.
For today's picture book I have Monica Kulling's newest book in which she tells the story of a woman inventor.
Illustrated by David Parkins
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Tundra Books, 2011, 978-1-77049-239-4
It is 1850, and Margaret Knight is buying nails so that she can build a sled for her brothers. Typically, girls living in 1850 don’t go around building things with wood and nails, but Margaret doesn’t care. She likes to build things and so she does.
Since the death of her father, Mattie has been cared for by her big brothers who work at the mill, and by the time Mattie is twelve she too goes to work there, alongside many other children.
The mill room is kept humid so that the threads won’t break, but sometimes they do break and the flying shuttles often injure people. Mattie comes up with a device that will prevent the shuttles from breaking free, and it is such a success that soon it is being used in all the mills. Being a child, Mattie is not able to apply for a patent for her invention.
By the time she is thirty, Mattie she is working in a paper-bag factory and dreaming up new inventions in the evenings. One day Mattie starts to wonder why there isn’t machine that can make a flat-bottomed paper bag. Surely there must be a way to make such a machine, and she sets about designing one. It takes her two long years, but eventually Mattie succeeds, and she creates a machine that can make a flat-bottomed bag. Now it is time to get a patent for her invention.
In this fascinating picture book biography, Monica Kulling tells the story of Margaret Knight, a woman who loved to invent machines, and who defied the conventions of her times to do what she loved. Young readers will be delighted to see how Margaret triumphs over those who are eager to discredit her. This is the third book written by Monica Kulling for Tundra’s Great Ideas series.