If you stop by Picture Book Builders occasionally, it’s no secret that I adore picture book biographies, and also love science. Recently, I discovered a new picture book I can’t wait to share — WHOOSH! LONNIE JOHNSON’S SUPER-SOAKING STREAM OF INVENTIONS (by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate.) And as luck would have it, a few weeks ago I found myself seated next to the talented Don Tate at an SCBWI dinner. Coincidence, I think not!
So this month I’m very excited to feature WHOOSH!, a picture book gem which shares the true story of how NASA engineer, Lonnie Johnson, invented the Super Soaker water gun.
At the beginning of this wonderful story, Chris Barton shares a bit about Lonnie’s childhood growing up in Alabama, and how he loved to take things apart to see how they worked. Lonnie was also fascinated by rockets, and even tried to mix up a batch of rocket fuel in the kitchen (and nearly burned down the house!)
As Lonnie grew older he dreamed of becoming an engineer, yet an aptitude test he took said that wasn’t the best career choice for him. But Lonnie pursued his dream anyway, and went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering. After many years of working for NASA where he designed important space exploration equipment, while working on a new cooling system Lonnie accidentally invented the Super Soaker gun. (Which happens to be one of the Top Twenty Toys of all time, by the way.)
The engaging text includes quotes from inventor Lonnie Johnson (who’s still living.) It also cleverly introduces readers to scientific terms such as “prototype,” while emphasizing the importance of persistence in the invention process.
As a mechanical engineer who worked on rockets for NASA in my former career, Lonnie’s story is especially meaningful to me as I enjoy learning about the creative process of different inventors and discovering how the inventions we use everyday came to be (case in point, THE INVENTOR’S SECRET.)
No doubt, kids will love WHOOSH! LONNIE JOHNSON’S SUPER-SOAKING STREAM OF INVENTIONS (Charlesbridge), and with starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, reviewers and other adults will love it too!