June 20, 2016

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

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 8:40 pm by suebe2

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

Lonnie Johnson and his five brothers and sisters grew up in a small, crowded house in Mobile, Alabama.  Ronnie wanted his own workshop but he understood that there just wasn’t room.  Still, he found the time and space to tinker with rocket kits, an Erector set and all kinds of things that he hauled back from the junk yard and in from the shed.

Lonnie’s classmates gathered around when he launched a new rocket.  Lonnie had also built a robot he named Linex although he couldn’t figure out how to use a transmitter to send it commands.  Then one day he thought of his sister’s walkie-talkies.  Using scavenged pieces, he fixed the problem with the transmissions and his team won the 1968 science fair at the University of Alabama.  Five years earlier, African-American students hadn’t even been allowed to compete so when Lonnie’s team won they were happy but the overall atmosphere was hostile even if there was no trouble.

Lonnie went to college at Tuskegee University. He graduated and became a NASA engineer.  Whenever a problem arose, Lonnie would come up with an idea how to fix it.  Some of his ideas worked. Others didn’t.  Still others didn’t work quite as planned but still led to something new.  When Lonnie was working on a new cooling system, he put together a pump and nozzle that created a pressurized spray of water.  Soon Lonnie was working to make the device smaller and more portable — a water gun.

Finding a company to build the water gun wasn’t easy but Lonnie never gave up.  He kept working on his design and working to find a company that would make then.  Eventually, the Super Soaker made its way onto the shelves of stores across the US.

I really liked this book because it showed how much work went into Lonnie’s invention. Yes, he has a creative mind that is also looking for better way to so do things, but he didn’t give up when things didn’t work out.  Personally, I think that’s the most important part of the story since it is such an important part of how inventors and scientists work.  Plan, try, plan again, try again, etc.

This book is illustrated but it is a better choice for third grade plus, rather than younger picture book audiences.  Add it to your classroom or home shelf to help inspired science students, science fair participants and problem solvers of all ages.  This story will challenge stereotypic ideas about who does science and who can solve the world’s problems.

–SueBE

 

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