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Books and activities to build background knowledge — from Reading Rockets

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Children's books and activities

Inventions and Inventors

Do you know any creative kids who love to tinker, build things (and take things apart ...), and solve problems? We've gathered up a great collection of books, activities, apps, and websites for learning all about inventions and inventors.

Try pairing fiction with nonfiction books and exploring different genres (like poetry and biographies) and formats (like graphic novels and audio books). You'll be creating your own "text sets" — collections of texts focused on a specific topic, such as inventions and inventors. Reading widely in this way helps children build background knowledge, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.

You might also want to explore DIY Science Camp: Be an Inventor!

Inventions and Inventors

Great Fiction & Nonfiction Books

Age Level: 3-6 years old

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cover of "Clink" showing robot

Clink

By: Kelly DiPucchio

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Clink is a robot that used to be state of the art; now he's outdated and missing parts. Nobody...

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From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World

By: James Rumford

Age Level: 3-6 years old

The world changed when rags and bone, sticky stuff, and other things came together in the hands of...

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cover of "If I Built a Car" showing a boy showing a man a car

If I Built a Car

By: Chris Van Dusen

Age Level: 3-6 years old

In Seussian rhyme and lively illustrations, Jack imagines and describes the car he will build...

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If I Built a House

By: Chris Van Dusen

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Imaginative Jack is ready to build the house of his dreams, complete with a racetrack, flying...

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Polo: The Runaway Book

By: Regis Faller

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Fiction

The chase is on when Polo's book is stolen by a small alien. Polo, an engaging hound, pulls...

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cover of "The Most Magnificent Thing" showing girl pulling red wagon full of junk

The Most Magnificent Thing

By: Ashley Spires

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A girl decides to make something magnificent with the help of her assistant — her dog, but they...

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cover of What Do You Do WIth an Idea? showing a child looking down at a chick.

What Do You Do With an Idea?

By: Kobi Yamada

Age Level: 3-6 years old

This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As...

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Young Frank, Architect

By: Frank Viva

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Young Frank is an architect. He lives with his grandfather, Old Frank, who is also an architect...

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Age Level: 6-9 years old

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illustrated cover of "Clever-Lazy" showing two people in front of a river with hills in front of them

Clever-Lazy

By: Joan Bodger

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Far away, and on the other side of time, there lived Clever-Lazy, an explorer who loved to invent...

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Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World

By: Elizabeth Rusch

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Move over Tom Edison! This intriguing look at Tesla’s importance in early use of electricity is...

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Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed their World

By: Allan Drummond

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

It's windy on the Danish island of Samsø. Meet the environmentally friendly people who now...

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Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

By: Margot Lee Shetterly, Winifred Conklin

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

The true story of four African American women whose talent and tenacity led to careers at NASA...

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cover of "How Ben Frankling Stole the Lightning" showing Ben Franklin hanging from a lightning bolt

How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning

By: Rosalyn Schanzer

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Benjamin Franklin was amazing. He was a musician, a printer, a cartoonist, a shopkeeper, an...

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Hurricane

By: David Wiesner

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Fiction

As the sky grays and the leaves swirl by in a "green blizzard," two young boys and...

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cover of "I, Galileo" showing man looking through telescope

I, Galileo

By: Bonnie Christensen

Age Level: 6-9 years old

The voice of an old, blind Galileo Galilei is used to look back on a life that started in Pisa...

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Iggy Peck's Big Project Book for Amazing Architects

By: Andrea Beaty

Age Level: 6-9 years old

This workbook book features art and the characters from the picture book Iggy Peck, Architect...

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Iggy Peck, Architect

By: Andrea Beaty

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Iggy has one passion: building. His parents are proud of his fabulous creations, though they’re...

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illustrated cover of "Imaginitive Inventions" showing a piggy bank, a pie, and gum behind a jester

Imaginative Inventions

By: Charise Mericle Harper

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A lively, brief, rhyming look at various inventions and the people who created them weaves...

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Lewis Latimer: The Man Behind a Better Light Bulb

By: Nancy Dickmann

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Lewis Latimer's invention of the carbon filament made light bulbs more affordable and longer...

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cover of "Marvelous Maddie" showing young girl surrounded by sketches of inventions

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor

By: Emily Arnold McCully

Age Level: 6-9 years old

How did a curious girl became one of America's most prolific inventors? Mattie's childhood...

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cover of "Marveltown" showing giant robot holding up book title

Marveltown

By: Bruce McCall

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A romp through the possibilities of the unbound imagination. Marveltown is a place where flights...

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cover of "Mr. Ferris and His Wheel" showing a ferris wheel

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

By: Kathryn Gibbs Davis

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

Defying gravity and impossible odds, the engineer George Ferris created the sensation of the 1893...

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illustrated cover of Neo Leo showing a seated man with planes flying around

Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci

By: Gene Baretta

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Even though Leonardo da Vinci lived a long time ago (born in 15th century Florence), his ideas...

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Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin

By: Gene Barretta

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

What would you do if you lived in a community without a library, hospital, post office, or fire...

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On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein

By: Jennifer Berne

Age Level: 6-9 years old

As a child, he was a late talker but as he grew up, Albert Einstein never stopped asking questions...

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cover of "Papa's Mechanical Fish" showing man in fish-shaped submarine

Papa's Mechanical Fish

By: Candace Fleming

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A fictional account based on events in the life of eccentric inventor Lodner Phillips as told...

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Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum

By: Meghan McCarthy

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Though it's unlikely that anyone has ever heard of Walter Diemer, chances are they've...

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cover of "House of Inventions" showing a house with items on the wall, like a saw, a lawnmower, and a clock

Pop-Up House of Inventions: Hundreds of Fabulous Facts About Your Home

By: Robert Crowther

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Each room of every house holds items, objects, and other surprises that were invented at one...

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Regards to the Man in the Moon

By: Ezra Jack Keats

Age Level: 6-9 years old

When the other kids make fun of Louie and call his father "the junkman," his dad explains that the...

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Rosie Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers

By: Andrea Beaty

Age Level: 6-9 years old

This activity book features art from the picture book Rosie Revere, Engineer and will...

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Cover of Rosie Revere Engineer showing a girl with a red bandana in her hair holding a string.

Rosie Revere, Engineer

By: Andrea Beaty

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she's a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets...

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Snowflake Bentley

By: Jacqueline Martin Briggs

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Strong lines and narrative combine in this picture book biography of the Vermonter who figured...

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cover of "So You Want To Be an Inventor" showing musical instruments and two men on the phone

So You Want to Be an Inventor?

By: Judith St. George

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Ever wonder who invented the first dishwasher? How about Ben Franklin's inventions? Need...

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Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak: Geek Heroes Who Put the Personal in Computers

By: Mike Venezia

Age Level: 6-9 years old

It is difficult for today's young readers to imagine a time when personal computers were not widely...

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Sweet Dreams, Sarah

By: Vivian Kirkfield

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

Originally enslaved, Sarah E. Goode moved to Chicago after the abolition of slavery and started...

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illustrated cover of The Bluest of Blues showing a young girl outside and everything is in shades of blue and white, except red flowers.

The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs

By: Fiona Robinson

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

Born in England in the early 19th century, Anna was encouraged by her father to observe, study,...

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cover of "The Boy Who Harnesses the Wind" sowing boy and a windmill

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

By: William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer

Age Level: 6-9 years old

When fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba's Malawi village was hit by a drought, everyone's crops...

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cover of "The Boy Who Invented TV" showing boy holding a tv

The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth

By: Kathleen Krull

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Two machines captivated young Philo Farnsworth: a telephone and a phonograph. Both had cranks...

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The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos

By: Deborah Heiligman

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Paul Erdos grew up in Hungary and was always an unusual child. He enjoyed numbers, was inept at...

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The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

By: Natashcha Biebow

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

You may not have heard of Edwin Binney but chances are you’ve used his invention: Crayola...

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cover of "The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont" showing a crowd and planes in front of the eiffel tower

The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont

By: Victoria Griffith

Age Level: 6-9 years old

While the Wright Brothers were gliding over Kitty Hawk, the charming Brazilian Alberto Santos-...

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The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague

By: Julia Finley Mosca

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

After touring a German submarine in the early 1940s, young Raye set her sights on becoming an...

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The Hole Story of the Doughnut

By: Pat Miller

Age Level: 6-9 years old

A seafaring cook named Hanson Crockett Gregory is credited with inventing the sweet fried treats...

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The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan

By: Joan DiCicco

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

Using his ingenuity and tenacity, Garrett overcame racial barriers and forged a career as a...

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Ticktock Banneker's Clock

By: Shana Keller

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

The story of 18th century African American scientist Benjamin Banneker and his three-year...

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Weird & Wacky Inventions

By: Jim Murphy

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Images of unusual inventions are presented with possible uses, explained when the page is turned...

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Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

By: Chris Barton

Age Level: 6-9 years old

Nonfiction

As a kid, Lonnie fiddled around with toy rockets and more. But all of his tinkering led to a...

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Age Level: 9-12 years old

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Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle

By: Deborah Lee Rose

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Nonfiction

The true story of Beauty, the wild bald eagle that made world news when she was illegally shot,...

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Black Pioneers of Science and Invention

By: Louis Haber

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Nonfiction

...

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Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer

By: Traci Sorell

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Nonfiction

Mary Golda Ross designed classified airplanes and spacecraft as Lockheed Aircraft Corporation's...

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Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World

By: David Macaulay

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Nonfiction

This fascinating story of the development of steam engines is told against the backdrop of David...

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Curious Jane: Science + Design + Engineering for Inquisitive Girls

By: Sterling Children's

Age Level: 9-12 years old

“Curious Jane” activities started as a summer project to keep the author’s girls engaged. It has...

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cover of "Generation Fix" showing six teenagers, a lightbulb, and a tree

Generation Fix: Young Ideas for a Better World

By: Elizabeth Rusch

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Nonfiction

Young people see a need and work to better their world in this upbeat chronicle of youthful...

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Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women

By: Catherine Thimmesh

Age Level: 9-12 years old

In kitchens and living rooms, in garages and labs and basements, even in converted chicken coops,...

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Hooray For Inventors!

By: Marcia Williams

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Discover the stories behind some of the world's greater and lesser inventions. Beginning with a...

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Mistakes that Worked

By: Charlotte Jones

Age Level: 9-12 years old

None of the inventions described in these pages were planned; in fact, some of the inventors had no...

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Robot: DK Eyewitness Books

By: Roger Bridgman

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Take a detailed look at the fascinating world of robots — from the earliest single-task...

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Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future

By: Kathy Ceceri

Age Level: 9-12 years old

A fun and educational introduction to the exciting field of designing, building, and operating...

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Tesla’s Attic

By: Neal Shusterman

Age Level: 9-12 years old

The first in the Accelerati Trilogy, 14-year old Nick, his younger brother and his father have...

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cover of "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" showing an intricate lock

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

By: Brian Selznick

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Image and text combine in a unique presentation to tell the story of an orphan boy who lives...

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The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle

By: Don L. Wulffson

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Did you know that the ice cream sundae was invented because of a law forbidding the sale of ice...

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cover of "THe Kid's Invention Book" showing photo of two kids. One is holding a lightbulb about her head.

The Kids' Invention Book

By: Arlene Erlbach

Age Level: 9-12 years old

The author uses the success of 15-year-old Chester Greenwood, who invented earmuffs in 1873, as the...

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photo cover of "The Next Wave" showing waves hitting rocks

The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans

By: Elizabeth Rusch

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Journey to the wave-battered coast of the Pacific Northwest to meet some of the engineers and...

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cover of "Toys" showing different kinds of toys

Toys! Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions

By: Don Wulffson

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Have you ever wondered who invented Lego, Mr. Potato Head, or toy trains? Here are the fascinating...

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What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors

By: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Age Level: 9-12 years old

Nonfiction

Basketball legend Abdul-Jabbar champions a lineup of little-known African-American inventors in...

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