Imaginative Inventions: The Who, What, Where, When, and Why of Roller Skates, Potato Chips, Marbles, and Pie (and More!)


Written in verse and filled with full-color illustrations drawn by the author, this book invites young readers inside the minds of great inventors, encouraging them to think imaginatively as it offers the origins of items such as roller skates, potato chips, eyeglasses, the vacuum cleaner, and more.

Read More Show Less
... See more details below
Hardcover (1 ED)
$13.45 price
(Save 25%)$18.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (20) from $5.84   
  • New (12) from $10.04   
  • Used (8) from $5.84   
Note: Kids' Club Eligible. See More Details.
Sending request ...


Written in verse and filled with full-color illustrations drawn by the author, this book invites young readers inside the minds of great inventors, encouraging them to think imaginatively as it offers the origins of items such as roller skates, potato chips, eyeglasses, the vacuum cleaner, and more.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Spark your imaginative juices and feed your fact-hungry mind with this creative homage to inventions of the past. From the creator of the potato chip to the inception of the piggy bank, this cool book offers plenty of info in rhyming verse with some cool and quirky illustrations.

Each invention is given a two-page layout that includes a reenactment of the big event along as well as a slew of innovative and unusual characters. Take, for example, the man who created eyeglasses. He discovered the phenomenon of refraction as he looked through the bottom of his glass cup and realized he could see a whole lot better. Or take the very short French king who had a cobbler make high-heeled shoes for him in an effort to be physically more imposing than his subjects. When the fad caught on with the rest of populace, the king banned the wearing of heels by anyone but himself. More facts lie on the side of page, detailing the who, where, and when of each incident.

Fact-filled books are not new phenomena, but pairing facts with awesome and vibrant illustrations and funny verse makes this book unique. Perfectly suited for reluctant readers, fact-crazy kids, and curious adults.

Publishers Weekly
In this edifying volume, Harper (When I Grow Up) explains how such everyday things as gum, skates and potato chips came to be, though she qualifies her research by noting that "creative storytelling and imagination were also used to tell these tales." For instance, piggy banks originated from vessels made of a clay called pygg; Harper speculates, "Some potter probably said,/ after giving it some thought,/ `What if I take my fine pygg clay/ and make a pig-shaped pot?' " High-heeled shoes, which first appeared in 16th-century France, inspire a tall tale about a short king. The vacuum-cleaner's innovator is depicted as a neat freak who tries to inhale dirt from his furniture: "1901 was the year/ that he built his first machine./ It took two men to operate/ but really got things clean." Harper maintains a lighthearted mood by describing each item in doggerel verse. She paints naive portraits of inventors at work, frames each spread with a thematic border and provides trivia about her humble subjects ("The most popular doughnut with kids is the chocolate frosted"). With its crazy-quilt visual patterns, bouncy stanzas and fun facts, this miscellany zigzags between informational and whimsical. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
This book presents fourteen inventors and their inventions using other children's nonfiction literature sources and a touch of imagination, to interest younger children in where common things come from. Some inventions, such as potato chips, chewing gum, vacuum cleaners, eyeglassses, wheelbarrows, roller skates and the flat-bottomed paper bag are documented with names, dates, and places. Others, such as animal cookies, marbles, pie, the piggy bank and donuts are generally located in an era but not attributed to a particular person,. The Frisbee is credited to a person who took the name from Yale students who sailed Frisbee pie tins around the campus in 1957. The book's format, with decorated borders reflecting the invention, features a right-hand sidebar with nonfiction information printed sideways so you have to turn the book to read who, where and when. It includes other interesting facts about the invention, such as the fact that more Frisbees are sold each year than footballs, baseballs and basketballs combined. But the page design is busy and sometimes distracting. Harper's humorous, energetic collage and paint illustrations feature pointy-nosed, elongated characters scattered on the page. Unfortunately, some of the lurching verse is difficult to read smoothly ("He made a fine contraption./ It was a brilliant scheme./He used the top of his nose/as a glasses balance beam;" Still, while there are numerous books about inventions, there are not as many for younger children. The short verses may be read a few at a time to spur discussion or fill in the time bits while children wait for lunch or the bus, and the book also serves as a good short resource for report writers, what with itsweb site connections and the nonfiction sidebars. 2001, Little Brown, $14.95. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Susan Hepler
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-Children who are interested in the origins of things will enjoy this whimsical look at how piggy banks, doughnuts, eyeglasses, high-heeled shoes, chewing gum, and more were created. Each of the 14 inventions is covered in a two-page spread. The main text is composed of four-line stanzas that note the date (or time period) of the invention and relate how the idea evolved. The verses are fun and anecdotal, such as the one about the violin-playing inventor of roller skates. "The night of the big party,/with wheeled skates upon his feet,/Joseph glided in while playing/and the crowd said, `Oh, how sweet.'" The busy pages each have a brightly colored background with thematic borders. On the right side of the spread, they list the inventor, place and date of the invention, and interesting facts and statistics about it. Fanciful cartoons are interspersed with the text. For a more conventional approach to the development of common things, Charlotte Foltz Jones's Accidents May Happen (Delacorte, 1996) is a good choice.-Lynda Ritterman, Atco Elementary School, Waterford, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This introduction to inventions delivered in cartoony spreads with clomping verse falls on its face. Harper's text is so bogged down in rhyme and meter that it crosses into inaccuracy. In telling how Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt sent back his french fries to Chef George Crum, Harper says "One day there was a customer. / Let's say his name was Rick. / He ordered some of George's fries / then said, "These are too thick!" (So Crum sliced them paper-thin and invented the potato chip). Harper's choice to rename Vanderbilt "Rick" is perplexing (rhymes with thick?), and hardly forgivable for the small print on the verso that states "though all the facts have been verified to the best of the author's ability, it should be noted that creative storytelling and imagination were also used to tell these tales." Most kids will recognize the verses as awkwardly patched together ("Some inventions solve a problem, / like glasses to help you see, / Then there are others just for fun, / like skates or the Frisbee.") Too bad, as the goofy paintings will appeal to the age group that is also fascinated by inventions of things like potato chips and chewing gum. Trivial "facts" noted in the margins will also appeal (e.g., under doughnuts, that "the most popular doughnut with kids is the chocolate frosted"), though nothing in the text does much to really explain how the item was invented. An acknowledged list of sources in a single paragraph is also located on the verso, in minute type. This seems designed to inspire rather than explain. Sadly, it does neither. (Nonfiction. 5-8)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316347259
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 175,352
  • Age range: 1 - 6 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.75 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Charise Mericle Harper is the author and illustrator of many books for young readers, including the Just Grace series and Flush: The Scoop on Poop. Her drawings have also been featured in several national magazines and newspapers.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Potato Chips 4
Frisbee 6
Pie 8
Piggy Bank 10
Eyeglasses 12
Doughnut 14
Flat-Bottomed Paper Bag 16
High-Heeled Shoes 18
Wheelbarrow 20
Chewing Gum 22
Roller Skates 24
Marbles 26
Vacuum Cleaner 28
Animal Cookies 30
A Last Word About Inventions 32
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 10, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    My students loved this book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)