A purposeful but appealing presentation of information about accomplished lives.
It's an entertaining and often surprising exploration of lesser-known innovators, past and present.
Young Herbie and Ella are disappointed with the dilapidated state of their new house, and cranky with the didactic handyman, Mr. Mital, who seems intent on instructing them in African-American history. "There's more to our history than slavery, jazz, sports and civil rights marches," he insists. But he quickly gains their attention with stories of little-known inventors, which appear around them in foldout pages, with notes and peanut-gallery remarks penciled in by the kids. Some developments were life-changing, like open-heart surgery or food preservation, and some pure fun.
Filled with great illustrations, the book features fascinating profiles of subjects ranging from a pioneer of open-heart surgery to the inventor of the Super Soaker water gun.
—Sports Illustrated Kids
A playful history.
Get ready to have your mind blown with this fun book. It tells the story of twins who discover the amazing stories of African American inventors whose creations changed your world...The book has lift flaps and fast facts that makes learning so quick and easy.
A highly readable tale full of fun facts about creators of color.
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
An inspiring book that broadens the definition of "inventor" and shines a light on many talented African-Americans throughout history.
—San Francisco Book Review
This introduction to lesser-known African American inventors just might inspire kids to create their own history-changing inventions.
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.)
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
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)