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The Picture Book Buzz

Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines - Perfect Picture

The first improbable Rube Goldberg machine I remember seeing was in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie. The "Breakfast Maker" was so enthralling and exciting. But if I'm honest, I have to admit that half the fun was watching the various mishaps that occurred with the machine.

As the Rube Goldberg website notes: "Goldberg is a true success when it comes to making people laugh. He was able to draw fifty-plus years of invention comics during his lifetime. Each of those inventions has the potential to produce tummy-aching and muscle-pulling comedy." I dare you not to chuckle, or outright laugh, when you examine the Rube Goldberg cartoons on the end pages.

Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines

Author: Sarah Aronson

Illustrator: Robert Neubecker

Publisher: Beach Lane Books (2019)

Ages: 3-8



Invention, following your dreams, cartoons, and STEAM.

Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):

Discover how Rube Goldberg followed his dreams to become an award-winning cartoonist, inventor, and even an adjective in the dictionary in this inspiring and funny biographical picture book. Want to become an award-winning cartoonist and inventor? Follow your dreams, just like Rube Goldberg! From a young age, Rube Goldberg had a talent for art. But his father, a German immigrant, wanted Rube to have a secure job. So, Rube went to college and became an engineer. But Rube didn’t want to spend his life mapping sewer pipes. He wanted to follow his passion, so Rube got a low-level job at a newspaper, and from there, he worked his way up, creating cartoons that made people laugh and tickled the imagination. He became known for his fantastic Rube Goldberg machines—complicated contraptions with many parts that performed a simple task in an elaborate and farfetched way. Eventually, his cartoons earned him a Pulitzer Prize and his own adjective in the dictionary. This moving biography is sure to encourage young artists and inventors to pursue their passions.

Opening Lines:

Question: How do you become a successful award-winning artist and famous inventor without ever inventing anything at all? (This is not q trick question.)

A man named Rube Goldberg did it!

In a funny way, his life was just like one of his famous inventions: an improbable and inefficient chain reaction that ends up making perfect sense.

What I Love about this book:

The unusual way that Sarah Aronson wrote the book [opening with a question and teasing the reader with two false endings], and this double spread by Robert Neubecker, provide a visceral experience of the twists and turns, starts and stops that Rube Goldberg's life took from a shy, quiet child determined to be a cartoonist, through an engineering degree and a job in the Water and Sewers Department, almost making it in San Francisco (until an earthquake leveled the city), and finally achieving his dream and so much more.

Text © Sarah Aronson, 2019. Image © Robert Neubecker, 2019.

I love the name of the alter ego that Goldberg created for his invention comics - Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. (I bet that would be a fun evaluation for a psychiatrist.) And his inventions explaining how donuts got holes and how to cut your own hair are amazing and hysterically drawn by Neubecker; who beautifully captured Rube's crazy nuttiness throughout the book in bright almost cartoon-like images.

Text © Sarah Aronson, 2019. Image © Robert Neubecker, 2019.

Even though he was an engineer, Rube Goldberg's inventions weren't designed to actually fix problems, but "to make us look closer. And question logic. And tickle the imagination." By asking his readers to question why and how things are done and imagine possibilities, no matter how bizarre and unrealistic, Rube Goldberg's comics challenged people to "use the most amazing machine in the universe."

At the end of the back matter, Sarah included a quote by Goldberg : "You have to have courage to be a creator." What a perfect thought to leave with kids. This book does a great job of conveying the message that if you bravely follow your heart and dreams, do the work, and enjoy the ride you too could have an interesting & fulfilling life. This playfully, engaging biography of, and tribute to, a very interesting and creative man will encourage young readers to create inventions themselves. A great book for STEAM and invention units.


- draw your own version of a Rube Goldberg machine;

- try to make your own Rube Goldberg machine (;

- watch some videos of Rube Goldberg machines (; and

check out the Rube Goldberg Foundation, for teaching guides and competitions (;

If you missed Sarah Aronson's interview on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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