We just wrapped up a unit study on Inventions and Electricity. Our focus was on Thomas Edison (hence electricity), but there are so many inventors or types of inventions you could focus on with your child.
My list of books for this unit was really quite extensive. With such a big push to make STEAM subjects more accessible to kids, there has been an influx of fantastic picture books, graphic novels, and general resources about brilliant people who have made remarkable things. This list only begins to touch the surface of all the great books out there. I hope these ideas can lead you to some perfect books as you explore inventions and electricity with your kids.
For more ways to learn about inventions and electricity, check out our Inventions and Electricity Unit Study.
Books in bold were our favorites.
There are so many wonderful picture books about inventors or inventions. There were some really great looking ones on our “to check out list” for the library, but there just wasn’t enough time to get to all of them. These are the ones we WERE able to bring home (or are favorites we pulled off our own shelves). We read almost all of them.
- The Marvelous Thing that Came from a Spring – Sometimes fun inventions happen accidentally. The whimsical collage illustration in this book caught my kids’ attention as they learned about the history of the Slinky.
- Whoosh! – Some people are full of ideas. Sometimes those ideas come by surprise and turn into iconic toys – like the Super Soaker!
- The Crayon Man – Crayola crayons have brought colorful joy to children for several generations. Have you ever wondered how the crayons in these iconic boxes came to be? Find out in The Crayon Man.
- Timeless Thomas – A fun look at a few of Edison’s inventions and the way they continue to impact our lives today. Also in this series: Neo Leo and Now and Ben.
- Patricia’s Vision – Patricia Bath was the first African American female doctor to gain a medical patent for a device that did the impossible, and restored sight to the blind.
- Thomas Edison: Lighting the Way (I Can Read Book) – An easy read about the basics of Thomas Edison’s life and inventions
- George Washington Carver (National Geographic Kids) – An easy reader introduction to the life of George Washington Carver
- The Inventor’s Secret – This was one of my favorite reads as it went through the lives of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford side-by-side. As he grew up, Henry couldn’t help but wonder why Edison was so successful. One day, Henry got to meet Thomas and discover his secret first hand.
- Bright Dreams: The Brilliant Ideas of Nikola Tesla – Often overlooked in history books, Nikola Tesla made amazing contributions to the way we use electricity in our everyday lives.
- The Boy Who Invented the TV – What if information could be shared quickly from one place to another? Would it help bring us together? These were questions Philo Farnsworth asked, leading him to invent the television.
- The Boo-Boos that Changed the World – When Earl created a special bandage for his accident-prone wife, he had no idea his invention would forever change the way we handle boo-boos. This book is written in such a fun and playful tone. It was a quick favorite in our home.
- Great Idea Series – My kids have always loved these books with any unit study we’ve done. This time they particularly read It’s a Snap! multiple times.
- Then and Now – This is a fun look at how machines and inventions have changed over time and how they have effected our lives. My son especially enjoys the pictures from “way back when you were a kid.”
- The House that Cleaned Itself – Sometimes inventions don’t become something important or even popular, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile. Every time we read it, my kids ask to see this interview with Frances Gabe, the inventor of the Self-Cleaning house.
- Mr. Ferris and His Wheel – Everything was invented by someone – even Ferris Wheels. And sometimes those inventions were risky. That was the case of the exciting attraction called a Ferris Wheel.
- Sweet Dreams, Sarah – OK, so we didn’t actually get to check this one out, but I REALLY wanted to, and it has amazing reviews, so I had to include it in my list.
Text Heavy Picture Books
- The Explosion Zone Series – The illustration and format of these books are very similar to the “You Wouldn’t Want to Be . . .” history series. I found the tone, however, to be less cynical, which is a total win in my books. It took us a couple sittings to get through the book on Farady, but the kids really enjoyed it.
- Who Really Discovered Electricity? – We didn’t actually read this one, but the game-type storyline to answer the question of who really discovered electricity seemed exciting to me.
- Nerf Genius: Reyn Guyer – My kids thoroughly enjoyed hearing the origin story of their beloved Nerf Guns. It actually took us a while to read this book because of all the fun conversations and rabbit trails it sparked. Nerf Genius is part of a whole series of books on the inventors of some of the most iconic toys. There are too many for me to include here, but you can check out the whole Toy Trailblazers Series here.
- Look Inside How Things Work – Children love to see how things work. This engaging lift-the flap book shows the inner workings of day-to-day gadgets. My kids really start enjoying this series of books at around age four. The bite sized chunks of information make it easy for you to read as much or as little as you would like at a sitting.
- See Inside How Things Work – For kids who are ready for a little bit more information, but still love the lift-the-flap style, See Inside how things work is a great next step.
- Electricity (DK Eyewitness) – This is exactly what you would expect from a DK Eyewitness book, filled with stunning images and bite sized pieces of information. You could use this book as a spine, but we like to look through these books and read pieces here and there.
- Ideas that Changed the World – I love stories. Stories connect us emotionally with the people, places, and things in our lives. This book does talk about some of the science behind everyday inventions, but it also tells the how and the why, the stories, of how things came to be.
- Inventions (DK Smithsonian) – This is a massive book that looks at so many inventions throughout history. My son enjoyed sitting with this book for long periods of time and pouring over its contents.
- 125 Cool Inventions (National Geographic) – These futuristic inventions are fun to look at. The images are what you would expect from National Geographic. There isn’t much text on each page which is good for short attention spans, but may send your extra curious kiddos on the hunt for more information.
- The Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Physics – This is a great explanation of Physics for older kids – perfect to have on hand as a reference.
- Made in Heaven: Man’s Indiscriminate Stealing of God’s Amazing Design – Did you know that many of our inventions were inspired by nature? From fish scales to butterfly wings, you can learn how we have learned and invented by observing God’s creation.
- The Story of Inventions: I debated on including this in the chapter book section or the dictionary section. Each section includes a story and some information about one invention. The writing is engaging and you will find all kinds of inventions from all over the world. This is a household favorite.
Early Chapter Books
- Electric Storm (Magic School Bus Chapter Books) – We didn’t get to this book, but my kids have enjoyed books from this series before.
- Lewis Latimer: Engineering Wizard (VIP) – We also didn’t get to this one, but it looked REALLY good.
- Who Was Book Series – There are so many great books about inventors in this series. I have included a few my kids enjoyed, but there are many more and it seems new ones are coming out all the time. I also wanted to mention you can get mini unit studies for many of the books in this series at The Waldock Way.
I’ve decided to add a new category to my booklists: graphic novels. I think these can be so important for reluctant or struggling readers, or just kids who love this format. I haven’t read these ahead this time, but I thought I would include them for you to consider. I think you can get many of them at libraries.
- The Shocking World of Electricity with Max Axiom – We haven’t read this particular Max Axiom book, but we did read the one on magnetism, and my kids really enjoyed that. There are a few very short chapters, but they are loaded with information.
- Jr. Graphic American Inventors – It has been a while, but I’m pretty sure the Henry Ford book in this series was my oldest’s first introduction to graphic novels, and he LOVED it. Again, these are pretty short, but there are many great American inventors you can learn about.
- They Changed the World: Bell, Edison and Tesla – I haven’t read this one, but if I’d have known about it when gathering books for this unit study, it for sure would have been on my list as we spent some time with all three of these inventors.
- Toys! Amazing Stories Behind the Inventions – My kids haven’t actually picked this one up yet, but I’ve read a few of the chapters on my own (you don’t have to read it in order), and I’ve really enjoyed hearing about where some of my favorite toys came from.
- Thomas Edison: Inspiration and Hard Work (Heroes of History) – This was our primary read aloud for our unit study. I have always enjoyed the Heroes of History biographies. My eight-year-old was a little lost in some of the explanations sometimes, but enjoyed the book nonetheless. My ten-year-old science lover ate up every word. There are other inventors in this series and they are available as audio, e-book, or in print.
Have you read any of these books? What are your favorites? Are there any great books I forgot to add? Leave a comment below so none of us miss any great resources!
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