Happy Sunday, everyone! I want to talk about a book which is specifically for children, although I think that adults could benefit from it as well. At the very least, adults will learn fun facts that they most likely had not heard about elsewhere. Today I will be reviewing Famous STEM Inventors by Sumita Mukherjee.
Famous STEM Inventors tells the stories of nine young inventors and their unusual inventions. These stories explain the processes the inventors went through to plan and build their inventions—i.e. the scientific method—and include activities which encourage readers to participate in the process themselves. Colorful illustrations accompany each story, and definitions are provided for all words which may be too advanced for young readers to understand on their own. Parents can read this book with their children (which I always encourage) or let their children have at it so that their imaginations can go wild.
American children aren’t typically taught the scientific method (or the Engineering Design Process, as it’s narrowed to the specific process for engineering here) in-depth until they’re older, probably around middle school (if I’m remembering correctly, it’s been so long). Mukherjee ensures that readers are introduced to the wonders of this process long before that point, and she does it in such a way that children can easily follow along. More importantly, she makes the scientific method fun by showing children all of the cool things which can come from it as well as showing them that even children can be inventors. Mukherjee lets readers know that, with the scientific method, the only real limits are their imaginations and how hard they’re willing to work.
I would have loved to read a book like this as a child. Of course, I was a nerd. I pretty much came out of the womb a nerd. However, this book isn’t just for nerds like me. Mukherjee’s examples of inventions include glow-in-the-dark paper and chewing gum, both of which would be appeal to children of all interests and backgrounds. The activities may appeal more to children who already harbor STEM interests, but it would be hard for any child to read this and not feel their imaginations ignite.
At only 33 pages, it won’t take a child too long to read it if they only read the inventors’ stories. The illustrations also help the book be a quicker read and keep readers’ attention. Still, you can count on it taking them much longer as they will want to take part in the activities as well.
I really have no qualms with Mukherjee’s work. The illustrations utilize multiple drawing styles but, considering I didn’t even notice that until I read the book a second time, this fact does not detract from the experience. In fact, it might enhance the reading experience because the style used matches the inventor and the invention discussed in the accompanying story.
One particular element makes this book stand out from others like it: diversity. Mukherjee includes inventors of multiple backgrounds. They are not just of different ages and from different times; they are male and female and come from a variety of races and ethnicity. I know from experience that many books like these focus on Caucasian males, which can be discouraging to children who do not fall into this category. I love that Mukherjee addresses a wider variety of backgrounds, and I genuinely hope that she writes other books like this so that she can highlight even more kinds of backgrounds.
Overall, I think that children and parents will both love this book. Children will love the fun facts, activities, and illustrations, and parents will love watching their children get their first real taste of STEM and the scientific method. Not only will this book nurture preexisting interest in science, but I think it will also change a few lives for the better.