Make It! Draw It! Build It!: 17 Books To Inspire Intergenerational Family Activities | Summer Reading 2021

From robots to Rube Goldberg machines to cosplay costumes, kids of all ages—and their grown-ups—will find plenty of inspiration in these works. 

See more Summer Reading 2021 selections

From robots to Rube Goldberg machines to cosplay costumes, kids of all ages—and their grown-ups—will find plenty of inspiration in these works. 

Read Aloud

Be a Maker by Katey Howes. illus. by Elizabet Vuković. Lerner. ISBN 9781512498028. 

The book asks, “In a world of possibilities, today, what will you make?” From there, we see a young girl of color, armed with an imagination and a drive to build, create one thing after another, from small towers of toys to a playground that everyone can share. 

The All-Together Quilt by Lizzy Rockwell. illus. by author. Knopf. ISBN 9780375822049.

Rockwell's book centers on a group of people from different generations and ethnicities, who join together to create a work of art to hang in the library. The text provides a step-by-step process of quilting, from picking out the colorful fabrics for each square to crafting a border of handprints to surround the quilt.

Make Together

Cardboard Box Engineering: Cool, Inventive Projects for Tinkerers, Makers & Future Scientists by Jonathan Adolph. Storey. ISBN 9781635863604.

This title offers a terrific assortment of projects to make using household materials. The inventive projects will excite any budding builder. Six chapters highlight projects that include robotics and animatronics, audio and optical engineering, aeronautics and nautical engineering, mechanical engineering, and harnessing energy. 

Hack Your Kitchen: Discover a World of Food Fun with Science Buddies by Niki Ahrens. Lerner. ISBN 9781728414683.

This title offers eight kitchen activities for curious youngsters, with assistance from an adult. Projects encourage budding scientists to drop balls onto flour and cocoa to make impact craters, design a lemon volcano, and create edible paper from potato flour. Activities such as making rock candy and baked ice cream will require patience but provide delicious results.

Bots!: Robotics Engineering: With Hands-On Makerspace Activities by Kathy Ceceri. illus. by Lena Chandhok. Nomad. ISBN 9781619308305; ISBN 9781619308275. 

Ceceri urges readers to collect materials from yard sales and junk drawers and to tinker fearlessly (though safety guidelines are offered). Projects include basic pressure and tilt sensors, a solar-powered wobble bot made from garden lights, and gelatin-based skin for “soft robots.” 

Engines!: With 25 Science Projects for Kids by Donna B. McKinney. illus. by Tom Casteel. Nomad. ISBN 9781619309371.

An anthropomorphic beaver and snail provide a brief history of engines and 25 hands-on activities that demonstrate the concepts presented. Each chapter ends with several projects that, as the topics progress, become more challenging and will require adult assistance in addition to trips to the hardware store, pharmacy, and possibly the grocery store. 

Create a Costume! by Sarah Myer. illus. by author. First Second. ISBN 9781250152077; ISBN 9781250152084. 

This blend of fictional story and instructional manual features clear instructions and illustrations and a positive message about body positivity and the importance of confidence in cosplaying. 

Crazy Contraptions: Build Rube Goldberg Machines That Swoop, Spin, Stack, and Swivel: with Hands-On Engineering Activities for Kids by Laura Perdew. Nomad. ISBN 9781619308268. 

Inspired by cartoonist (and trained engineer) Rube Goldberg, Perdew intersperses introductions to six simple machines with projects that use these principles and tools to show energy in motion and sequential actions.

Gross Science Experiments: 60 Smelly, Scary, Silly Tests To Disgust Your Friends and Family by Emma Vanstone. Page Street. ISBN 9781645671145.

The activities in this title are grouped into chapters: “Blood and Brains,” “Baffling Bodies,” “Stinky Smells,” “Joking Around,” “Disgusting Diseases,” “Gross Foods,” “All About the Poo,” “Bugs and Grubs,” and “Gross History.”  Each section provides facts and background information.

Real-Life Makers & Inventors

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton. illus. by Don Tate. Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781580892971. 

While trying to find an environmentally friendly solution to refrigerator and air-conditioning cooling systems, engineer Lonnie Johnson stumbled upon what would eventually become his opus, the Super Soaker. 

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons by Natascha Biebow. illus. by Steven Salerno. HMH.  ISBN 9781328866844. 

In the early 1900s, Binney (who'd already pioneered dustless chalk for teachers) listened to his customers and family when they clamored for a new product: inexpensive, easy-to-use crayons for children. After a lot of messy experimentation, Binney finally struck the "top-secret formula" that eventually became Crayola crayons. 

A Super Sticky Mistake: The Story of How Harry Coover Accidentally Invented Super Glue! by Alison Donald. illus. by Rea Zhai. Maverick Arts. ISBN 9781848866478.

This book spotlights Harry Coover, who invented superglue. Coover and his team were trying to create a plastic during World War II. However, a mistake occurred during one of the experiments. Coover decided to further study his mistake. This is a fun, lesser-known story of a very common item, featuring enjoyable visuals.

Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge by Rachel Dougherty. illus. by author. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781250155320. 

A celebration of Emily Warren Roebling, the unsung female engineer behind the Brooklyn Bridge's construction.  Initially, she serves as a go-between from her husband to the workers. As Emily studies and learns, she comes into her own as an engineer and carries the project to completion in 1883. 

Mister T.V.: The Story of John Logie Baird by Julie Fulton. illus. by Patrick Corrigan. Maverick Arts. ISBN 9781848866461.

Fulton offers a wonderful nonfiction book about John Logie Baird, the inventor of the first television. Beginning with Baird’s unnamed childhood illness, the text quickly chronicles his many attempted inventions that preceded his successful transmission of a live image of a person.

Samuel Morse, That’s Who!: The Story of the Telegraph and Morse Code by Tracy Nelson Maurer. illus. by El Primo Ramón. Holt. ISBN 9781627791304. 

Maurer tells the story of Morse’s invention of the telegraph and Morse code. Endpapers include a time line of Morse’s life, facts about the telegraph, an extensive bibliography, and an author’s note that connects Morse’s code to the modern binary language of computers.

Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack by Sandra Nickel. illus. by Oliver Dominguez. Lee & Low. ISBN 9781620143698. 

Ignacio Anaya was a skilled home cook and a professional chef, but it was his invention of one of the world’s favorite snacks that made him a household name. 

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor by Laurie Wallmark. illus. by Katy Wu. Sterling. ISBN 9781454926917. 

Growing up in Austria in the 1920s, Lamarr wanted to understand how things worked. She took apart her toys to study their mechanisms and, during long walks with her father, explored subjects ranging from streetcars to the night sky.  

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing