What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors

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Overview

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball legend and the NBA's alltime leading scorer, champions a lineup of little-known African-American inventors in this lively, kid-friendly book.

Did you know that James West invented the microphone in your cell phone? That Fred Jones invented the refrigerated truck that makes supermarkets possible? Or that Dr. Percy Julian synthesized cortisone from soy, easing untold people's pain? These are just some of the black inventors and innovators scoring ...

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What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors

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Overview

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball legend and the NBA's alltime leading scorer, champions a lineup of little-known African-American inventors in this lively, kid-friendly book.

Did you know that James West invented the microphone in your cell phone? That Fred Jones invented the refrigerated truck that makes supermarkets possible? Or that Dr. Percy Julian synthesized cortisone from soy, easing untold people's pain? These are just some of the black inventors and innovators scoring big points in this dynamic look at several unsung heroes who shared a desire to improve people's lives. Offering profiles with fast facts on flaps and framed by a funny contemporary story featuring two feisty twins, here is a nod to the minds behind the gamma electric cell and the ice-cream scoop, improvements to traffic lights, open-heart surgery, and more - inventors whose ingenuity and perseverance against great odds made our world safer, better, and brighter.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Making use of an unusual format, former NBA star Abdul-Jabbar and his On the Shoulders of Giants coauthor Obstfeld offer an upbeat history lesson set within a fictional narrative framework. Siblings the Shoulders of Giants coauthor Obstfeld offer an upbeat history lesson set within a fictional narrative framework. Siblings Ella and Herbie, whose story unfolds in typeset chapter booklike pages surrounded by warmly lit paintings of their adventures, are less than enthusiastic about their fixer-upper of a new house. But as eccentric handyman Mr. Mital unveils the house’s potential, he also teaches them about contributions made by African-American inventors (“There’s more to our history than slavery, jazz, sports, and civil rights marches,” he says). Flaps show lifelike portraits of individuals like Dr. Mark Dean, a v-p at IBM; Dr. Charles Drew, who developed the concept of blood banks; and nuclear engineer Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker squirt gun. Ella’s off-the-cuff notes appear inside the flaps, while several spreads provide detailed profiles of other inventors and graphic novel–style passages. The banter between the siblings and, in particular, Ella’s snarky zingers keep things from feeling didactic—it’s an entertaining and often surprising exploration of lesser-known innovators, past and present. Ages 8–12. Agent: Iconomy. (Jan.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—A fictional story lies at the heart of this unusually formatted collective biography. Twins Herbie and Ella and their parents have just moved into a run-down older home; while they work to fix it up, Mr. R. E. Mital, an eccentric handyman hired by their parents, recounts the contributions of African American scientists and inventors. As the figures are introduced, foldouts on the sides of the pages contain Ella's notes (full of humor, as well as facts) about each one. More detailed profiles of other inventors fill the spreads, and some are introduced in graphic-novel-style pages. Instead of famous inventors such as George Washington Carver and Benjamin Banneker, readers are introduced to lesser-known individuals, including Alfred L. Cralle (inventor of the ice-cream scoop), Dr. Henry T. Sampson (gamma electric cell), and nuclear engineer Lonnie Johnson (Super Soaker). Information about the subjects' home, lives, and avocations is a welcome addition. The lack of an index and table of contents limits the book's usefulness for research; however, the large trim size, numerous illustrations, and unusual format (not to mention the celebrity author) will certainly attract browsers. And a surprise discovery about Mr. Mital's identity at the end will leave readers with something to ponder.—Jackie Partch, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
Kirkus Reviews
A handyman named R.E. Mital teaches a pair of twins about great African-American inventors and scientists as they explore their new house. The authors interweave the story of the brother and sister and their unusual house guide with facts about men and one woman whose achievements have become part of our everyday lives. Each room they explore provides Mr. Mital with an opportunity for a biographical presentation. Thus, turning on a light bulb opens a discussion about Lewis Latimer, while cleaning the bathroom cabinet leads to information about Drs. Percy Julian, Daniel Hale Williams and Charles Drew. Time in the kitchen segues into facts about George Crum and the potato chip. A cell phone leads to details about Dr. Mark Dean and computer graphics, Dr. Valerie L. Thomas and 3-D and James West and microphones. Information is set apart from the narrative of the squabbling siblings through the use of page flaps, page backgrounds of varying colors, the boy's hand-written notes and occasional graphic presentations. Each biographical entry, through brief, pays equal attention to the discrimination that the innovators faced. Unfortunately, the lack of an index and a table of contents make this problematic for homework assignments A purposeful but appealing presentation of information about accomplished lives. And the guide? Examine his name. (authors' notes, bibliography) (Informational fiction. 8-12)
From the Publisher
It's an entertaining and often surprising exploration of lesser-known innovators, past and present.
—Publishers Weekly

In his first foray into writing for children, basketball superstar Abdul-Jabbar teams with Obstfeld to introduce 16 mostly lesser-known African American inventors through a fictional story told by young twins, who learn that many items in a typical house and used by a majority of Americans were invented or developed by African Americans.
—Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763645649
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 1/3/2012
  • Pages: 44
  • Sales rank: 224,237
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 880L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.80 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the most famous and accomplished basketball players in U.S. history. Since retiring from the sport, he has committed himself to bringing history and social studies to young people and has written seven books, including the New York Times bestseller On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance, co-authored by Raymond Obstfeld. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lives in California.

Raymond Obstfeld is the author of more than forty books of fiction and nonfiction and is a professor of creative writing. He lives in California.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2012

    Great book!

    This was a great read for all ages about black inventors that did not make it to the history books. I enjoyed the layout of the book and will send a few as gifts to my nephews this year:)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

    AWESOME

    Tells a great story of two kids learning about the history of little known african-american inventors

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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