Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978
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Encouraging Invention

Since 1978, Parents' Choice has championed the search for products that sharpen young minds, not blunt them. From bookshelves to kitchen tables or playroom floors, the following suggestions will help awaken imaginations, cheer on creativity and instigate exploration.
So You Want to Be an Inventor? So You Want to Be an Inventor?
Ages: All Ages
Author: Judith St. George   Illustrator: David Small  
Penguin Putnam Inc., $16.99 (Paperback)

This is just the book for kids who like "to tinker with machines that clink and clank, levers that pull, bells that ring, cogs that grind, switches that turn on and off, wires that vibrate, dials that spin." etc "If you want to be an inventor, find a need and fill it," says author St. George. The author lists necessary attributes of an inventor: be a dreamer; keep your eyes open; "be stubborn as a bulldog", don't mind being laughed at. More than three dozen inventors have been well chosen as examples of the various attributes useful to a would-be inventor.

Creating Clever Castles & Cars (from boxes and other stuff) Creating Clever Castles & Cars (from boxes and other stuff)
Ages: 3 - 8 yrs.
Author: Mari Rutz Mitchell   Illustrator: Michael Kline  
Ideals Publications/Williamson Books, $12.95 (Paperback)

Kids explore life in various kinds of self-made "structures," including a spider web, igloo, nest, spaceship, circus tent, and general store. The best part is that kids can use whatever is around the house, classroom, or yard! Book Description

Automoblox X9 Sport Utility Automoblox X9 Sport Utility
Ages: 3 & Up
Automoblox Co., LLC, $40.00

Is it a puzzle or a car? Automoblox are both. These well-crafted wooden puzzles on wheels have a design that is both retro and futuristic. The sleek look of the vehicles is contrasted with the simplicity of a classic toy car. Each is constructed of solid maple accessorized with vibrant plastic details. All Automoblox models have interchangeable parts that allow children to play with several at once, mix their parts, and invent a brand new model.

Also see: Automoblox A9 Compact and Automoblox M9 Sportsvan

How Nearly Everything Was Invented How Nearly Everything Was Invented
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Roger Francis Bridgman  
DK Publishing, $19.99 (Hard Cover)   

A lighthearted look at more than 300 of the world's most important inventions, this fascinating book begins with six key inventions and explores the people who created them, the mechanics that make them work, and the ideas and innovations that inspired them. Illustrated with hilarious artwork teeming with tiny people (the Brainwaves!), How Nearly Everything Was Invented makes it easy to see how one crazy notion leads to another culminating in the remarkable technological revolutions that change our lives forever. Book Description

Building Big Building Big
Ages: 4 & Up
By: David MaCaulay  
Houghton Mifflin Co., $30.00 (Hard Cover)   

Author David Macaulay engages readers’ imaginations and gets them thinking about structures they see and use every day - bridges, tunnels, skyscrapers, domes, and dams. Through vivid text and imagery, he provides a glimpse into the minds of the designers and engineers who first envisioned such projects to see where their inspiration and ideas came from.

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: Emily Arnold McCully   Illustrator: Emily Arnold McCully  
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.00 (Hard Cover)   

Based on the life of Margaret E. Knight, Marvelous Mattie takes readers back to the Industrial Revolution in a true story with as many dramatic turns of events as any work of fiction. Always an imaginative child, Mattie uses her father's toolbox to put her ideas into practice, creating kites, footwarmers, and other life-enhancing devices for her family. Economic circumstances later compel Mattie's mother (and eventually a teenage Mattie herself) to take grueling work in the New England textile mills - an experience that prompts Mattie to begin designing machines that are both safer and more efficient.

Simple Machines by Tinybop Simple Machines by Tinybop
Ages: 6 - 8 yrs.
Tinybop,

Simple Machines by Tinybop is designed to teach how six simple machines work; a lever, screws, wheels and axles, inclined planes, wedges, and pulleys. It is beautifully designed with clever, stylized illustrations.

My Brothers' Flying Machine My Brothers' Flying Machine
Ages: 6 - 9 yrs.
Author: Jane Yolen   Illustrator: Jim Burke  
Little, Brown and Company Children's Publishing, $16.95 (Hard Cover)   

While history made famous the "the Wright Brothers," their younger sister Katherine played a significant role in helping them reach their dream of flying. Told through her eyes, the story details the siblings' childhood, her brothers' experiments with bicycles and flight, and the excitement of fulfilling their dream.

Lux Blox Lux Blox
Ages: 6 & Up
Lux Blox, $29.99

Lux Blox are the newest addition to the world of building sets. These flat, interlocking plus signs are designed for children aged six through sixteen, and the adults who play with them.

Star Jumper: Journal of a Cardboard Genius Star Jumper: Journal of a Cardboard Genius
Ages: 7 - 9 yrs.
Author: Frank Asch   Illustrator: Frank Asch  
Kids Can Press, $14.95 (Hard Cover)   

Alex has a new baby brother, Jonathan, whom he hates. The infant is revolting. He sticks to Alex as though he had been pasted to him. Peanut butter never gets closer to bread. Thank goodness that Alex is a scientific genius and an inventor; he figures he must do something to get away from Planet Earth to avoid the evil child. It will have to be his most brilliant invention. And indeed it is. In his backyard, Alex constructs a spaceship of cardboard and duct tape - as well as his own personal superior brainpower.

Gizmos & Gadgets Creating Science Contraptions That Work (& Knowing Why) Gizmos & Gadgets Creating Science Contraptions That Work (& Knowing Why)
Ages: 7 - 14 yrs.
Author: Jill Frankel Hauser   Illustrator: Michael Kline  
Williamson Publishing, $12.95

Using simple household items to create toys that spin, fling, collide, and whiz, kids will grasp the basics of concepts of gravity, inertia, balance, and energy. Every page is jam-packed (in age-appropriate vocabulary) with factoids, fun facts about famous inventors, and inspiration for science lovers of all ages.

KEVA Maker
Ages: 7 & Up
MindWare, $39.95

The KEVA Maker BOT Maze offers engineers and architects a gazillion (or so) ways to plan, build and experiment with how bots move through a maze.

The Story of Inventions The Story of Inventions
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Adam Larkum   Author: Anna Clayborne  
EDC Publishing, $24.99 (Hard Cover)   

The entire 89-page book is filled with clear, easy to-read, amusingly-illustrated nuggets of history about how products that today's youngsters take for granted came to be: toasters, jeans, chocolate bars, bicycles, Velcro, paper clips, computer mouse, microwave ovens, skateboards and many, many more. Having read the book, the child who is eager to invent something of her own can turn to the accompanying Inventor's Portfolio Kit, which includes a 3-ring binder with pages on which to keep records, plus step-by-step instructions on everything from how to find something to invent, protecting the invention, making a prototype, test-marketing it, and links to downloading forms from the US Patent & Trademark Office.

The Kid Who Named Pluto The Kid Who Named Pluto
Ages: 9 - 14 yrs.
Author: Marc McCutcheon   Illustrator: Jon Cannell  
Chronicle Books, $15.95 (Hard Cover)   

Illustrated with simple line drawings and a few photographs, this collection of short biographies of young people who made contributions to science offers plenty of inspiration for the young scientific dreamer. Profiles range from the famous Isaac Asimov and Robert Goddard to the not so famous like Truman Henry Stafford and Venetia Burney. Not all of the young scientists actually made their discoveries or inventions as children, but they all documented the ideas that led to their later breakthroughs.

The Science of Imagineering LEVERS and PULLEYS The Science of Imagineering LEVERS and PULLEYS
Ages: 9 - 14 yrs.
Disney Educational Productions, $49.95 (DVD)   

Walt Disney's famous quote "If you dream it, you can do it" opens this look at how simple machines are behind some of Disney's most popular theme park attractions, including Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Soarin' Over California, and the Typhoon Lagoon wave pool. While this DVD features the superior production values you'd expect, one feature is a standout: the show is hosted by a real engineer, or in Disney parlance, an Imagineer.

Also look for: The Science of Disney Imagineering TRAJECTORY and The Science of Disney Imagineering GRAVITY

Engineer Your Life Engineer Your Life
Ages: 13 - 17 yrs.
Designer: Sonali Patel   Developer: Molly Frey   Director: Thea Sahr   Director: Borgna Brunner   Producer: Catherine Jay Didion   Producer: Arthur R. Smith  
WGBH Educational Foundation,

The Engineer Your Life web site was created to present high-school aged girls with the various fields of engineering, as well as provide them with real-world examples of women in the field. From an introduction to the overall field of engineering, to "meeting" a variety of women engineers, and finally giving advice to students on how to get involved with it themselves, the site is simply designed, cleanly and clearly organized. Just what we'd expect from engineers.

The Playmakers: Amazing Origins of Timeless Toys The Playmakers: Amazing Origins of Timeless Toys
Ages: 15 & Up
By: Tim Walsh  
Keys Publishing, $50.00 (Hard Cover)   

The Playmakers: Amazing Origins of Timeless Toys is a celebration of classic toys and a tribute to the people who brought them to life. The book is a journey covering nearly 100 years worth of playthings and offering a delightful look back at many childhood favorites. Seventy-five toys are profiled, offering compelling behind-the-scene stories of the creation of Play-Doh, Clue, Frisbee, Nerf and more! In-depth toy timelines, company profiles and rare interviews with inventors provide a comprehensive look at the business of making and marketing toys. Book Description


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