The Picture Book Buzz

From Here to There - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

It's always fun to discover the story behind inventions. I mean, how did someone first come up with the idea of the little plastic clip on bread loaves?


It's especially interesting for things that seem such an ordinary, integral part of our lives. Few people alive today can remember when there weren't bikes and scooters, cars and trains, or planes and rockets. They are just always there. For many, myself included, information about the initial inventors and some these first inventions - like a foot-powered bike or a three-wheeled car - are not well-known.


So I was super excited to dig into this hybrid biography book. It's an older picture book with chapters or a full color illustrated chapter book. Or both. Either way it is a great introduction to some interesting inventors who changed the way we view transportation today.

From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves


Author: Vivian Kirkfield


Illustrator: Gilbert Ford


Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (2021)


Ages: 8 - 12


Nonfiction


Themes:

Inventions, transportation, biographies, and persistence.


Synopsis:

Celebrating the invention of vehicles, this collective biography tells the inspiring stories of the visionaries who changed the way we move across air, water, and land.


In a time when people believed flying was impossible, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier proved that the sky wasn’t the limit. When most thought horseback was the only way to race, Bertha and Karl Benz fired up their engines. From the invention of the bicycle and the passenger steam locomotive, to the first liquid-fuel propelled rocket and industrial robot, inventors across the world have redefined travel. Filled with informative sidebars and colorful illustrations, this collective biography tells the story of the experiments, failures, and successes of visionaries who changed the way the world moves.


Opening Lines:

At a time when most of the world believed human flight impossible, one boy thought differently.

When Joeph Montgolier gazed out the window at school, his teachers told him to stop dreaming.

Why couldn't he pay attention like his brother Étienne? But Joseph was paying attention - to a bird soaring in the sky. Joseph was wondering if he could fly too.


What I Loved about this book:

The novelty of this picture/chapter book hybrid format is definitely part of its charm. As a collection of nine biographies of many little known inventors who changed the way we travel forever, this fun book examines how each of these inventions - manned balloon flight, a steam locomotive, the automobile, bus company, liquid-fuel-propelled rocket, folding wheelchair, industrial robot, and computer designed ships - baffled and challenged their creators. And how with persistence, experiments, and determination each inventor led to the world we know now.


Vivian does a great job within each of the eight-page chapters of connecting the reader with the inventor as a child, who had a dream (flight, space travel, robotics, or be an engineer). Who saw a need to get places quicker (bike or car), move people and materials more efficiently (train or bus), or just help people move (wheelchair). And who refused to let shyness, hardship, failures, or others dissuade them reaching their goal. Raye Montague never let the fact that society dismissed a young, black girl's dream of becoming an engineer and operating a submarine - to become an award winning engineer who revolutionized how submarines are built.

Text © Vivian Kirkfield, 2021. Image © Gilbert Ford, 2021.

Another part of this book's charm are the stunning, colorful, detailed illustrations of Gilbert Ford. His images depict the range of clothing, housing, environment, and inventions from 1740 to 1970. He weaves in math and maps, diagrams and designs, and touch of wonder and whimsy. I love the cut-away image of Eric Wickman's first Greyhound buses and marvel at how "progress" reduced the amenities. Just as it did for airplanes.

Text © Vivian Kirkfield, 2021. Image © Gilbert Ford, 2021.


The fun language ("Business boomed. Friendships bloomed."), repetition ("Left foot-push! Right foot- push! Steady, steady, balance!), and rhythm that Vivian employs helps transport the reader through these inventors' driven push to create a solution or a dream. As a bonus, she also explores the historical ramifications and societal changes that occurred as a result of these innovations. Vivian and Gilbert make it lots of fun to learn about these "forgotten" inventors and their curious modes of transportation.


Throughout the book, colored bars contain additional information about the various periods of history, other failed inventions, or facts about the invention or inventor. They are fascinating extra bits of information that enhance, but don't distract from the story. Such as the descriptions and images of the other steam locomotives that failed the trial run from Liverpool to Manchester.

Text © Vivian Kirkfield, 2021. Image © Gilbert Ford, 2021.

The addition of "Build Your Dream" resources, Source Notes, Index, and a copious bibliography - which includes period illustrations - will appeal to educators and parents. Overall, this is a delightful picture/chapter book hybrid that will entrance kids and adults who love narrative, as well as expository nonfiction. There is a little something here for everyone. A book that will hopefully inspire creativity and dreams.


Resources:

- check out some cool engineering challenges - like making a floating cardboard boat - https://teachkidsengineering.com/stem-challenges-dyson-foundation/

- what things do you dream of or wonder about? Can you create a model from recycled or found objects, or draw a diagram, of an invention you'd like to make?

- list, or draw, a few things that you think will change in the near future. Maybe driverless taxis & buses?

- look at the links included in the back of the book for Design Squad, Kid's Inventor Day, Reading Rocket, and other fun organizations and try out a few activities.


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's joint interview with Vivian Kirkfield and Gilbert Ford (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.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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