Word Wednesday: ‘Inventions: A Children’s Encyclopedia’

Inventions Childrens Encyclopedia
Front cover of the Inventions encyclopedia. Note: This is the UK cover. The US cover has Smithsonian branding.

This week’s word is “Inventions.”

For Word Wednesday this week, I’m looking at another book from DK. One that typifies everything that is best about the publisher. It’s informative, comprehensive, and filled with amazing pictures. Inventions: A Children’s Encyclopedia is a reference book perfect for any family’s bookshelf.

What is ‘Inventions: A Children’s Encyclopedia?

It’s a history of invention, from the loom, the wheel, and cuneiform, right up to the smartphone, bionic hand, and electric air taxi. As well as a detailed breakdown of a huge number of inventions, it also looks at the people that invented them. This is an almanac of inventors and inventions.

The book clocks in at just under 300 pages and, as usual for DK reference books, is broken down into several distinct, color-coded, sections.

  1.  Early Breakthroughs. Developments from the cradle of civilization. Early writing, farming, and travel by land and boat are in this section. Early mechanical devices such as spinning wheels and the windmill feature too. The inventions in this section largely form the platform that history was built on. Later inventions are included too, such as gunpowder and the printing press. This section contains pages that focus on Zhang Heng and Archimedes.
  2. Making the Modern World. Building on what came in section 1, we have the invention of tools, the evolution of agriculture, and improvements in construction. Industrialisation and the production of electricity lead into plastics and man-made materials. This section also examines inventions that spurred on commerce, from the first cash register, through to ATMs and Bitcoins. Inventor profiles in this section include Tesla and Nobel.
  3. Get Moving. This section is effectively the history of transport, from the bicycle to the solar plane. Whether it’s on land, air, or sea, rail, road, or underwater, it’s in this Get Moving. The inventor spotlight falls on the Wright Brothers and The Stephensons.
  4. Communication. Time, the telegraph, and the telephone. The three T’s of communication are in this section. Fourth and fifth “Ts” of television and text messaging are also included. If that wasn’t enough, radio, the camera, computer, and the World Wide Web all appear in the bumper communication section. Ada Lovelace is the only inventor featured under communication.
  5. The Home. Bing! The Lightbulb; synonymous with invention since around 1883. Edison gets his own page in “The Home” section.  More home inventions include the battery, washing machine, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, coffee maker, and breakfast cereal. But domestic inventions aren’t all about practicality and chores. The book also looks at recorded music, games, and pastimes (Including Dungeons & Dragons and polyhedral dice, yay!).
  6. In Good Health. Section 6 looks at innovations in healthcare. Starting with early medical instruments and moving up to modern methods such as MRI. The book looks at the evolution of the microscope and the progression of understanding the microscopic world. There are two pages devoted to the importance of vaccinations. The inventors name-checked in this section are Pasteur and Marie Curie.
  7.  Space. The final section in the book is devoted to our understanding of the heavens starting with early pioneers such as Galileo, and showing the evolution of the telescope. The space race and how satellites have changed our lives are also mentioned. This section looks forward to the next generation of space exploration.

Many pages have interesting “fast facts” sidebars, that deliver two or three nuggets of information. At the back of the book, there is a comprehensive index and glossary and hall of fame for some noteworthy inventors.

Inventions Childrens Encyclopedia

Why read Inventions: A Children’s Encyclopedia?

As you can see the book’s coverage is very comprehensive. It rhapsodizes about the importance of innovation and celebrates human endeavor in the field. It stresses how much we owe to bright minds pushing back the boundaries of knowledge.

There is a fair chunk of text on most pages, pushing this book up towards 9-14-year-olds. This will be a great book for helping with science projects. The text is very easy to read. It’s easy to lose chunks of time by becoming absorbed whilst doing so. The “Fast Fact” sidebars usually feature slightly off the wall bits of information, which beckon the reader in to find out more.

As ever, with DK books, the text is backed up with excellent photographs. Once again, DK has delivered the goods on the history of science. There is a great balance of art on each page, drawing the eye and keeping you interested. I can’t recommend this book enough, if you’re looking for something to give an overview of inventors and inventors.

Inventions: A Children’s Encyclopedia forms part of a series, I shall be looking at the science equivalent for another Word Wednesday post, in a few weeks time. I imagine there may be some overlap between the figures in both books.

If you enjoyed this Word Wednesday post, do check out the others, here. Specific reviews you may wish to consider include, 100 Scientists Who Changed History and How to be Good at Science Technology and Engineering.

If you’d like to buy Inventions: A Children’s Encyclopedia, you can do so, here in the US and here, in the UK.

Inventions Childrens Encyclopedia

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book in order to write this review. 

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