Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super–Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton. Illustrated by Don Tate. Charlesbridge, 2016
Lonnie Johnson once took an aptitude test that indicated he wouldn’t make a good scientist. Luckily he ignored it. As a teen he led his team to a science fair victory, and as an adult he worked for NASA. But perhaps the biggest impact his work has had on today’s children is as inventor of the Super Soaker. It was an accidental invention that occurred when he was working on a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners. This picture-book biography shows Lonnie as an inquisitive, tinkering child who faced some obstacles growing up in Mobile, Alabama, in the 1960s. As Barton has done in previous books, he does not shy away from racial history, as he discusses some of the obstacles Lonnie has faced as an African American scientist. Tate’s appealing illustrations show Lonnie’s life-long determination as well as the technical details of his inventions. They include an amusing fold-out page that shows the blast of water from his prototype Super Soaker as part of a successful demonstration aimed at a board room full of toy company executives. (Ages 6–11) © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:
- How did Lonnie overcome the challenges in his life?
- Have you ever invented something or do you have an idea for an invention?
- If you had the opportunity to meet Lonnie Johnson, what questions would you ask him?
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