Illustrated by K. Bennett Chavez
For ages 8 and up
Lerner, 2002, 0-7613-1665-5
It is hard to imagine what life in our world would be like if we humans had not invented the wheel, the printing press, paper, or the telephone. We depend on inventions every day, some of which are necessary, for example the light bulb, and some of which entertain us, like the television.
In this book, poet Joyce Sidman introduces us to some of the inventions that have shaped human society. She begins by going far back in time, imagining how a young woman might have come up with the idea of using river clay to make a bowl. Having no means to transport the berries that she has found, the young woman is frustrated until an idea comes to her and she realizes that perhaps there is a solution to her problem, one that can be made out of clay.
Next we hear the words of Ts’ai, a young man who worked for sixteen years to make something to write on that was not “costly.” What he came up with is now called paper. Johannes Gutenberg also worked for many hours to create a printing press that would make the creation of books less expensive. If books could be mass produced, then more people would have access to them.
In the next section of the book, “The Age of Invention,” we meet the French brothers who built the first hot air balloon that carried passengers up into the air. The passengers were a duck, a sheep, and a rooster. Then there is the man, Francois-Louis Cailler, who figured out how to turn cacao beans into the first chocolate bar, “a wafer of heaven.” We also find out about the woman who invented the washing machine, the woman who found a way to save babies in poor families from going blind, and the man who found out how to keep a train’s moving parts well greased.
The collection of poems wraps up by looking at some of inventions of the “Modern Age.” Here we read about Marie Curie, who discovered radium, and we find out about the invention of the bra, an item of clothing that freed women from their “corsets of whalebone and steel” that were like “a cage.” In this section we also read about Velcro, the Frisbee, the work of a Nobel prize-winning scientist, and the World Wide Web.
Each of the four sections in this book is followed by sections of text that provide us with further information about the inventors and inventions that are mentioned in the poems.
As they read through this collection, readers will come to understand how the genius of a few has made the lives of many better, safer, and healthier. The poems serve as a tribute to the ingenuity of the men and women who dared to think outside of the box.