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Sunday, April 25, 2010

What's The Big Idea? written Helene Becker and illustrated by Steve Attoe. Maple Tree, 2009. $19.95 ages 10 and up

"But many inventions truly made life easier. Ships for transportation by water, wheels for travel by land, iron for plows to till the soil, and pumps to water fields all began to appear. Soon, human life looked nothing like our old hunter-gatherer days - we were farming the land."

Here's a history of technology as it has evolved over the past 4000 years, divided into four sections and telling readers about the amazing inventions that have 'changed life on earth forever'. The table of contents begins long, long ago and then moves to long ago, and finally not so long ago, before asking what next. In each section some inventions are described on two page spreads, 'Big Thinkers' get fair treatment and close-ups describe various places and the many useful articles found there.

The needle is described first...invented by 'damp, depressed and very chilly women 40,000 years ago. The explanations are accessible sounding like conversation and catching the listener's ear as the text moves forward. There is much information to digest. She adds Spinoffs boxes where she describes other items that resulted from the targeted invention. With needles, she talks about socks, buttons, bikinis, and even silk.

Anyone interested in inventions and how they came to be will find some of what they are looking for here. The illustrations add fun to the pages and will help readers better understand some of the concepts. As with nonfiction you don't need to read it cover to cover. An index will help fans find their favorite topics, take them there and then do it again. If you have an inventive mind, this might be just the book for you.

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