Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor

by Emily Arnold McCully

View All Available Formats & Editions

With her sketchbook labeled My Inventions and her father's toolbox, Mattie could make almost anything - toys, sleds, and a foot warmer. When she was just twelve years old, Mattie designed a metal guard to prevent shuttles from shooting off textile looms and injuring workers. As an adult, Mattie invented the machine that makes the square-bottom paper bags we

See more details below


With her sketchbook labeled My Inventions and her father's toolbox, Mattie could make almost anything - toys, sleds, and a foot warmer. When she was just twelve years old, Mattie designed a metal guard to prevent shuttles from shooting off textile looms and injuring workers. As an adult, Mattie invented the machine that makes the square-bottom paper bags we still use today. However, in court, a man claimed the invention was his, stating that she "could not possibly understand the mechanical complexities." Marvelous Mattie proved him wrong, and over the course of her life earned the title of "the Lady Edison."

With charming pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations, this introduction to one of the most prolific female inventors will leave readers inspired.

Marvelous Mattie is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Caldecott Medalist McCully's (Mirette on the High Wire) lucid narrative and crisp period illustrations illuminate the early life of an impressive visionary. Born in 1838, young Mattie is inspired by the treasured toolbox she inherited from her father: "When she thought of things that could be made with the tools, she drew them in a notebook labeled My Inventions." The gifted girl's first inventions-a foot warmer, a bat-shaped kite, snow sleds-will certainly intrigue readers, who will find that sketches McCully recreates in panels at the bottom of the pages offer welcome insight into Mattie's creative process. Working in a textile mill at the age of 12, the girl witnesses a runaway shuttle loosened from a loom that injures a peer, and consequently Mattie invents a safety device that later would be installed on looms in all the local mills. After that, she invents a machine that makes the first flat-bottomed paper grocery bags and successfully argues her case in court after a machine-shop worker steals the plans and files a patent for the invention. Mattie went on to establish the Eastern Paper Bag Company and remained a "professional inventor for the rest of her life." In a concluding note, the author emphasizes Knight's remarkable accomplishments and persistence during an era in which many believed "that women's brains were inadequate for inventing." This edifying story may well motivate youngsters to explore their own creativity. Ages 7-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This is the story of a young girl gifted with an engineer's mind. From an early age, "Mattie" Knight begins sketching ideas into a notebook she labels "My Inventions." Her brothers call the sketches "brainstorms." For her brothers, Mattie makes toys with moving parts; for her mother, a poor widow, Mattie makes a foot warmer. Then she builds a kite so well designed that it soars high above the kites of the boys in town. They refuse to believe Mattie designed it, declaring, "A girl couldn't make that!" This is an echo Knight will hear throughout her career as an inventor. Knight's most famous invention is a machine that produces square-bottom paper grocery bags. This design is such a good idea, it is stolen! Though it takes all of her savings, Knight takes the thief to court. The thief declares, "Miss Knight could not possibly understand the mechanical complexities of the machine." But she proves him wrong, showing the judge the "brainstorms" she sketched in her notebook for two years. Winning the case, Knight becomes the first woman in U.S. history to obtain a patent. Readers will enjoy the conflict of this tale. The watercolor illustrations and design sketches nicely compliment the dialogue-filled text. 2006, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Ages 9 to 12.
—Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt
Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
If necessity is the mother of invention, Margaret E. Knight might be called the mother of American inventors. Caldecott medalist Emily Arnold McCully celebrates Knight's intelligence, skill and persistence in Marvelous Mattie. This lively piece of historical fiction traces Knight's interest in things considered boyish in the 19th century and beyond the scope of the female brain. With her sketchbook and father's toolbox, Knight designed and built better jumping-jack toys, kites and sleds. When she went to work at age 12 in a Massachusetts textile mill, she invented a metal shuttle guard to help protect workers from injury. Even with 22 patents to her name, Knight is best remembered for her invention of a machine to make flat-bottomed paper bags. The latter part of the picture book focuses on a watershed moment in the career Knight forged for herself. When a man stole and patented her idea, Knight took him to court and proved her ownership with her sketchbook and a friend's testimony as to her hard work late into the night for two years. Knight then started her own paper bag-making business and, as a professional inventor, was dubbed `the Lady Edison." A marvelous book about an extraordinary woman.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-This story of the first woman to receive a U.S. patent makes an excellent introduction to inventors and Women's History Month. Knight used tools inherited from her father to design and build her inventions. As a child, she was always sketching one of her "brainstorms" for toys and kites for her brothers. She once designed a foot warmer for her mother. Although it was never patented, Knight's design for a safer loom saved textile workers from injuries and death. Later as an adult, she fought in court and won the right to patent her most famous invention, a machine that would make paper bags. Mattie's story is told in a style that is not only easy to understand, but that is also a good read-aloud. The watercolor-and-ink illustrations capture the spirited inventor and support the text in style and design. Their sketchy quality works well with the pen-and-ink drawings of inventions at the bottom of the pages. While most of these are simulated, the actual drawings from the 1871 patent for the paper-bag machine are included. The text has some fictional dialogue that makes Mattie more real to young readers without compromising the facts. An author's note gives additional biographical information about this creative woman. This is not the best source for reports, but it will inspire interest in women and children as inventors. It's a good reminder that nonfiction isn't just for reports. It pairs nicely with Marlene Targ Brill's Margaret Knight: a Girl Inventor (Millbrook, 2001).-Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A fictionalized biography introduces children to an enterprising 19th-century mill girl who invented, among other things, a machine to make square-bottomed brown-paper bags. McCully presents in Mattie Knight the very quintessence of Yankee ingenuity, a mechanical girl who makes an improved sled and sells them to the local children. At 12, in Manchester, N.H., she invents a device to prevent shuttles from flying dangerously off the looms, and she never looks back. Mattie's stick-to-itiveness carries her through years of painstaking work and a threat to her patent rights as she makes her way as a woman inventor and entrepreneur. From the lovingly painted redbrick mills to the panels at the bottom of the pages that show Mattie's sketches as she moves through life (including a facsimile of her actual patent drawings), it's a beautiful looking book. The storytelling, however, falls short of the illustrations, clumsily rendered invented dialogue dragging the text down. As a portrait of a little-known independent woman, however, it deserves attention, though it is a pity that the bibliography doesn't point readers to such child-oriented works as Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh (2000). (Picture book. 7-10)

Read More

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Sold by:
File size:
41 MB
This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range:
7 - 11 Years

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >