Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane

Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane


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This riveting nonfiction picture book biography explores both the failures and successes of self-taught engineer Emma Lilian Todd as she tackles one of the greatest challenges of the early 1900s: designing an airplane.

Emma Lilian Todd's mind was always soaring—she loved to solve problems. Lilian tinkered and fiddled with all sorts of objects, turning dreams into useful inventions. As a child, she took apart and reassembled clocks to figure out how they worked. As an adult, typing up patents at the U.S. Patent Office, Lilian built the inventions in her mind, including many designs for flying machines. However, they all seemed too impractical. Lilian knew she could design one that worked. She took inspiration from both nature and her many failures, driving herself to perfect the design that would eventually successfully fly. Illustrator Tracy Subisak's art brings to life author Kirsten W. Larson's story of this little-known but important engineer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781629799384
Publisher: Thinkingdom
Publication date: 02/25/2020
Pages: 48
Sales rank: 207,177
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

Kirsten W. Larson used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes about rocket science—and just about any science—for kids. She is the author of more than twenty-five children's books, including the Robotics in Our World series. Visit https://kirsten-w-larson.com.

After working as an industrial designer for seven years, Tracy Subisak began her business as a freelance illustrator and designer. She specializes in visual storytelling through children's literature, storyboarding, and design work. Visit tracysubisak.com.

Customer Reviews

Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Qingthings 1 days ago
“Wood, Wire, Wings” is a story of how Lilian Todd became an airplane inventor, improving upon the designs of the Wright Brothers. Children will learn about her tenacious will and determination as she designs, builds, fails publicly and tries again. The book emphasizes a love of problem solving and not being discouraged by failure, apt for classroom discussions about growth mindset and the creative process. The illustrations are fresh and lively and captures beautiful peripheral details that seem very well researched like other aircrafts and inventions of the period. Actual quotes by Todd are included and lend additional historical weight to this lovely book.
AbiC 4 days ago
I admit I had never heard of Emma Lilian Todd until I read this picture book biography. But the author not only distilled a lot of information in a captivating narrative, she also provided historical context in a really accessible way. I think it will provide kids with a great foundation to want to learn more about Todd, other women in STEM, aviation, as well as engineering. The biography also chronicles a number of Todd's disappointing and sometimes embarrassing failures in her quest to build a practical flying machine. (eg: The engine failing to start at the New York Interborough Fair in front of a big crowd... yikes.) But through her hard work, resilience, patience, and critical thinking skills, Todd eventually achieves her goal. I think Todd's story will inspire young inventors, engineers and creators to persevere when faced with their own setbacks. It's a shame more people don't know about Emma Lilian Todd and her achievements, but WOOD, WIRE, WINGS beautifully tells her story now. A must-read.
Jpastro 9 days ago
What a fabulous and inspiring nonfiction book! I’m amazed by Emma Lilian Todd’s determination and resilience toward inventing a “practical” airplane. This book touches on persistence, courage, women in STEM, growth mindset while pursuing one’s dreams, and the notion that with hard work, anything is possible! The beautiful art and soft palette chosen by Tracy Subisak perfectly complement this amazing biography. A great addition to any library!
C_Is_For_Cookie 17 days ago
I recently had the pleasure of reading an ARC of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane by Kirsten W. Larson. This biography swept me off my feet from the first line. “To Emma Lilian Todd, problems were like gusts of wind: they set her mind soaring.” I was fascinated by this story of a late 19th/early 20th century WOMAN inventor who “whittled and fiddled” and tinkered to turn her dreams into reality. The growth mindset that Lilian displayed in her life is reflected in the way the author handled Lilian’s many setbacks – instead of being discouraged when something doesn’t work, when she doesn’t have the money to fulfill her dreams, or when one of her early designs literally goes down in smoke, Lilian is “buoyed by the challenge” and finds a way to work through the problems she encounters – which were many for a woman in STEM in those days. I also liked the points the story made about invention – that engineers find ways improve upon others’ designs, so that the end result can’t usually be said to have been invented by a single person. I can highly recommend this book!
dkhiani 18 days ago
A well-told biography that really captures the growth mindset needed to be an inventor. Extensive backmatter helps readers understand the importance of Lillian Todd's accomplishments and how it fits into aviation history. This book should be included in STEM and women in science children's collections.
Anonymous 18 days ago
Prior to learning about this book, we had never heard of Emma Lilian Todd. Having a daughter, and two boys I want to remember to always support and encourage women, we are always excited about children's books that celebrate strong females and their accomplishments. We recently got our hands on a copy of our own, and we are so proud to be owners of this book. Not only does it present Todd's story in an engaging way with beautiful and captivating illustrations, but we learned a lot about a women that we wouldn't have otherwise known much (if anything) about. We even had tried a simple Google search about her and came up short on anything but a few basic repeating facts. This book really fills in a lot of wholes in the information the average person can find. There's even a lesson plan available through the author's website to help flesh this out into a full-blown study. As homeschoolers, that is invaluable and we can't wait to get started! We are grateful to Kirsten Larson for the care she's given this project and can't wait to see what she has up her sleeve for her next one.
candywellins 19 days ago
Great picture book about the history of aviation. A true story about a girl who loved STEM, experimentation and play (before those were even hip concepts). Todd went on to invent an airplane. Great for teaching persistence, hard work and all sorts of STEM concepts.
Iamnotlefthanded 20 days ago
The book opens with lovely prose and the premise that a problem is a challenge and the solution is creativity. The author selected exactly the right information to include in the book like Lilian’s relationship with her grandfather and an illustrated timeline to contextualize Lilian’s influences. The questions that Lilian asks herself and her self talk in general are a model for children to engage in critical thinking. One of my favorite illustrations is on pages 12 and 13, where Lilian is working in the patent office and her mind is flooding with ideas of her own. Quotes from Lilian herself showcase her cleverness, resilience, and defiance. A beautiful theme threading throughout the text is that failure is a completely normal part of the process of invention. Lilian doesn’t let the constraints of the time, criticism from her male peers, or setbacks stultify her passion or her goals. I love that another woman patron, Olivia Sage, helps Lilian to fund her endeavors. Parents will love reading this with their children to nurture their confidence, teachers will love this wonderful text and tool for the classroom to illustrate the “exasperating” and “exhilarating” journey of being a creator, and kids will be inspired to experiment and create.
AngelaBurkeKunkel 22 days ago
This is a fantastic picture book biography for those looking to explore STEM concepts and/or growth mindset with children, as well as to emphasize the role of women in STEM. I'd never heard of Emma Lilian Todd before this book, but was engaged in the story of how she went from tinkering as a child, to typing up others' inventions in the U.S. Patent Office, to building her own design for an airplane. Larson's writing is full of active verbs and refrains that emphasize Todd's persistence in the face of repeated failure, and Tracy Subisak's illustrations incorporate technical sketches of the era in an artistic way. For librarians and classroom teachers, the text also includes rich back matter, including an author's note, a timeline of airship innovation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a selected bibliography.
MelanieBE 23 days ago
I’m so glad to have met Emma Lilian Todd through this book! Lilian is a resilient inventor, even when confronted with the huge technical challenges of building an airplane and the difficulty of being a woman in a field dominated by men. Lilian’s spirit of resilience and her passion for innovation win out after each failure - and there are many. What an important lesson for us all! WOOD, WIRE, WINGS is also a reminder to parents and teachers about the way curiosity is sparked and innovation happens when children are encouraged to engage in hands-on-learning as Lilian was by her own family. Larson's words evoke a sense of flight, as do Subisak’s dynamic illustrations.
Anonymous 23 days ago
WOOD, WIRE, WINGS lifts up the story of Emma Lilian Todd, an early airplane inventor who used her smarts and determination to create an airplane design that allowed riders to more easily and comfortably fly, leading the way for airplanes to eventually become a more practical form of transportation. I love the way Author Kirsten Larson frames the biography—it’s an up-close look at Emma Lilian Todd’s process that will invite young tinkerers to consider their own way of carving progress out of failures and persistence through setbacks. Hands-on perspectives in the illustrations contribute to the immediacy of the story—readers may feel like they are looking over and solving Emma Lilian Todd’s problems right along with her. A great nonfiction picture book for teaching growth mindset or setting an example for women in STEM, but also just a wonderful PB biography that young makers and inventors will especially love.
SMir 26 days ago
The inspiring story of groundbreaking aeronautical engineer, Emma Lilian Todd, will capture your heart and imagination. The combination of Kirsten W. Larson’s immersive, visual story-telling and illustrator Tracy Subisak’s nostalgic, dreamy art will leave you feeling inspired and satisfied. Generous historical contextual cues including Lillian’s quotes, an airplane development timeline and an extensive bibliography will make you return to this book time and again. For anyone with a love of STEM, history, or female empowerment: this book checks off every box with effortless beauty.
McMarshall 28 days ago
A great biography of a little-known female engineer. Encouraged by her mother and grandfather, Emma grew up whittling, tinkering, bending, and twisting anything her hands touched. Enthralled with the prospect of flight, she studied bird wings, created models, studied motors, and revised her plans. Despite many failures and obstacles, Emma persevered; convinced that her design could work. Kids who love to draw, create, or build will love this book and be encouraged and inspired by Emma's tenacity and drive to figure things out. To build and fly a better airplane. The use of direct quotes in speech bubbles and charming illustrations really brings Emma to life for the reader. This is a great book for STEM units, history buffs, and anyone interested tinkering.
KCareyWrites508 29 days ago
Wood, Wire Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane is a celebration of perseverance and resilience. The wind whipped illustrations hint at Emma Lilian Todd’s active mind as she dauntlessly pursues her dream of building an airplane. Peppered with actual quotes from Todd, this book is a wonderful exploration of a practical dreamer who used her imagination to create useful inventions. Readers will cheer for Todd, relate to her failures, and pour over the photographs shared at the end of the book.
MaryWagleyCopp 29 days ago
From the first lines of WOOD, WIRE and WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane, I was swept away. This is an amazing biography of a relatively unknown (until now!) inventor who, beginning in childhood, always wanted to know how things worked. Her curiosity and determination grew from tinkering to testing others' inventions to building her own. With a few failures under her belt, persistent and resilient Emma, succeeded in engineering a flying machine! This is an inspiring story of a woman who is "buoyed by the challenges" she faces, perseveres, and plays an important role in aircraft engineering. The story is beautifully written and the soft and airy illustrations by Tracy Subisak are perfectly matched to the text. This is an inspiring, fascinating read with informative back matter with a clear time-line on aircraft innovation. A must read. A must have!
ColleenKP 30 days ago
Hooray for women in STEM! This engaging book's subject, Emma Lilian Todd, was a maker from an early age and I think any child interested in making, building, and creating will devour this story. Emma loved puzzles—and every problem she encountered on her way to building a machine that could fly was an opportunity to solve one. The book is full of clever language that hints at flight and the illustrations are a delight. Highly recommended!
Anonymous 30 days ago
This is a fascinating book that uncovers the little-known history of one of the first female airplane designers Emma Lilian Todd. It is wonderfully illustrated and is perfect reading for 7 to 10 year olds interested in STEM. My biggest takeaway from this book was that even though things didn’t always go right for her the first time Lilian never gave up on her goal. Her story is an important lesson in persistence sure to inspire young readers.
Anonymous 3 months ago
This inspiring picture-book biography highlights the often overlooked role of women in STEM more than a century ago. Working in a patent office, Emma Lilian Todd took many of the early aircraft designs home and tested them, then decided she could do better. Budding engineers will love to watch her try, fail, and persevere as she makes incremental improvements that persist in aircraft design today. Wispy illustrations from Tracy Subisak evoke the feeling of flying, and quotations from Todd add a layer of depth. An essential addition to any collection of nonfiction children's titles about early advances in aviation.