Cover of Whoosh! shows African American inventor with a super-soaker

[Quick note before today’s book: There is a giveaway of my book, Mountain Chef, today at “From the Mixed-Up Files.” Come on over and enter!]

In Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-soaking Stream of Inventions, Chris Barton paints a portrait of the temperament of an inventor. We watch Lonnie Johnson from his childhood on up facing the problems of creating something new: testing, trouble-shooting, revising, and just plain keeping track of loads of gear.

In addition to telling the story of how Johnson came up with the super soaker, the book tells about his contributions to the US space program and NASA’s Galileo probe. It can be tricky to condense an entire life to 32 pages, but Barton’s retelling stays focused on his theme–what Johnson had to do to invent–and is lively throughout.

I was surprised that the book didn’t talk at all about the scientific principles behind the super soaker. The back matter sends the curious reader to the internet to unravel that mystery.

I loved the back matter’s call to action: “…if you want to better understand how Lonnie Johnson himself works, then you’ll put this book down, step away from the computer screen, and get permission to take something apart.”

The back matter also talks about Barton’s experience interviewing Johnson and the widow of one of his co-workers.

Don Tate’s cartoon-style illustrations are appealing. Just keep the pages away from those super-soakers!

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate. Charlesbridge: 2016.

Children around a globe.




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