Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate

Published by Charlesbridge

 

Summary:  When Lonnie Johnson was growing up in Alabama, his small house and large family didn’t leave him with much space to do what he loved best…invent.  Still, he had supportive parents (when his rocket fuel caught fire in the kitchen, his mom just sent him outside) and a lot of perseverance.  His hard work paid off in high school, when his robot won first place at a science fair at the University of Alabama—a school that African-American students like Lonnie hadn’t been allowed to attend just a few years before.  Lonnie graduated from Tuskegee, then went on to work for NASA, but he kept inventing in his spare time.  While testing an environmentally-friendly cooling system, he serendipitously invented the Super Soaker water gun.  This hit toy has given Lonnie enough income to allow him to continue working on his inventions full-time.  The author’s note explains how he learned about kids’ stereotypical ideas about scientists, leading him to write a biography of a man who doesn’t fit those stereotypes. 32 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  Kids will connect with this hard-working, but fun-loving scientist who invented a much-loved toy; teachers will make connections to science and African-American history curriculum; and librarians will enjoy using this book to tie in with their maker spaces.

Cons:  It seemed to me that Lonnie Johnson was a bit hasty in disregarding the advice, “Don’t quit your day job”.

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