Let’s Read Three: Inventing Books!

Happy New Year friends! It is that time of year where everyone seems to have some kind of refresh on their mind. Be it resolutions, lists, a determined thought – the new year tends to give us some extra gusto to do something. With these new resolves in mind, I think this set of three is perfect to encourage and motivate on whatever project you long to create.

I toyed with calling these “Perseverance Books,” but it sounded too cheesy. I also realized that adults don’t really talk about “inventing” things, unless that is their actual occupation. Children’s books are full of inventors and inventions of all sorts. I think we need to get back to believing we can create a solution to something, no matter our age. So, let’s read three books celebrating the failures and surprising successes of inventing!

1. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, 2014.


Let’s start this list off with a new book from last year. It is the story of a girl who decides to make the most magnificent thing in the world. She knows exactly what it should look like and how it should work, so all she has to do is make it. Despite her great skill at making things, she endures failure after failure trying to put this one together. She gets angrier and angrier as she tries to make the silly thing work, until finally she injures herself and quits in defeat. Her faithful assistant/best friend/dog suggests a walk to cool off. The walk takes them around the block and then back past all of her “failures” which suddenly look quite different to her. This is a marvelously adorable book that challenges you to redefine what success and failure actually look like.

New to Ashley Spires’ work, I find her digital style quite delightful and fell in love with her creations even more when I saw the illustration information blurb: “The artwork in this book was rendered digitally with lots of practice, two hissy fits and one all-out tantrum.”

2. Septimus Bean and His Amazing Machine by Janet Quin-Harkin, pictures by Art Cumings, 1979.

Our second book is an old one that has been on the favorites list around here for a few months. It was an obscure title I spotted in a vintage book sale and bought solely based on the illustrations by a vintage cartoonist name I recognized. The text is cleverly written in rolling rhyme and the failing invention turned surprising creation is a perfect message for our invention theme.


Septimus Bean shows up at the palace one day with a large, blue machine. The king is delighted and desires to know what it does. Septimus shows him all the workings and gadgets, but regrets that he has no idea what to use it for. The king, queen, and their many daughters all attempt to decipher its use; but each try turns out disastrous. One final experiment destroys the machine and almost finishes off Septimus. Dismayed and depressed, Septimus signs off on ever inventing again; that is until he discovers the king’s children delighting in the marvelous playground that miraculously appeared from all of the broken pieces from the machine “mistake.”

My playground-obsessed daughter is ecstatic about this turn of events every time we reach the end of the story. It is a light, humorous story with a subtle and challenging lesson about reinventing your failures. And by golly if I don’t love to hear my daughter request the book by name. “Septimus Bean” is just such a cute phrase to hear from a toddler mouth!

3. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, 2013.

Our final book is also fairly new and gives a nod to the millions of women during WWII who worked to provide the food and equipment needed for the war effort. As the historical note in the back shares, these multi-talented women were represented by the scarf-wearing fictional character, Rosie the Riveter, whose slogan was “We can do it!” Taking its inspiration from those strong women, Andrea Beaty penned a new tale with another excellent female character that has a passion for inventing.


Also written in lovely rhyme, Rosie is a quiet girl who has a secret joy of tinkering to invent crazy, but necessary things for her beloved family members. Unfortunately, one family member damages her confidence when he laughs at her creation, and she puts her passion aside thinking it a worthless endeavor. But her favorite oldest relative visits and shares great stories about building WWII aircrafts and Rosie’s attention is once more riveted to engineering. She determines to build a flying machine for her aunt and then tests it to hopefully shield herself from humiliation when it will definitely flop. It does indeed fail and she is mortified to discover her aunt sees the whole thing and laughs. But yet again, we have an excellent tale about how “the only true failure can come if you quit.”

The illustrations by David Roberts are complex and detailed, yet with a gorgeous palette and humorous touch, with obvious nods to the historical images from the 30s and 40s of those famed women working on aircrafts. This book is a great collaboration not only between the author and illustrator but also in connecting history with present-day. It is a beautiful, inspiring book; perfect for our inventing trio.

Now, what are you working on this new year? I would be fascinated to know your inspirations!

6 thoughts on “Let’s Read Three: Inventing Books!

  1. I would love to read all three of these! The third one seems especially appropriate as we’re about to study WW2 in our homeschool. Seems like it would be a fun addition! Thanks for sharing at Booknificent Thursday.


  2. I thought I was the only one in the world who knew Septimus Bean – which is probably in my top 5 children’s books of all time. I adore the story and the art. So glad to see it here!

    And I’m so happy to have found this blog (via Design Mom). We have a lot in common (SAHM in NYC, 2 kids, aspiring illustrator, deep love for picture books), so I’m so glad to add this blog to my reading list.


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