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Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions



by
Chris Barton
illustrated by
Don Tate

Edition
Hardcover edition
Publisher
Penguin
Imprint
Charlesbridge
ISBN
9781580892971

Awards and Honors
2019 Beverly Cleary Children's Choice Award Winner
2018 Beehive Book Award Winner, Informational
ALA Notable Books for Children Nominee–Summer 2016, Nonfiction
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2016, Picture Books
New York Public Library 2016 Best Books for Kids, Picture Books
NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books 2017
NSTA Best STEM Books for Students K–12: 2017
2017 Cook Prize Finalist
CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2017, K–2
The Nonfiction Detectives, 2016 Best Nonfiction Books for Children
CSMCL Best Multicultural Books of 2016
ILA Children’s Choices 2017 Reading List
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Lonnie Johnson was testing an invention idea when he discovered a pump and nozzle combination that “would make a great water gun.” But for a long time, toy companies disagreed. Author’s note. Full-color digital illustrations.

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None

Details

Format

Print

Page Count

32

AR

4.7: points 0.5

Lexile

820L

Genre

Nonfic

Scholastic Reading Counts

2

JLG Release

Aug 2016

Book Genres


Topics

Lonnie Johnson (1949–, ). African American inventors. Alabama. U.S. inventors. Biography. Inventions. Super Soaker water gun.

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Cover Art

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist, The Horn Book Magazine, The Horn Book Guide^, Kirkus Reviews*, Publishers Weekly*, School Library Journal

School Library Journal

As a child, Lonnie Johnson was a “tinkerer,” or an avid collector of pieces and parts—all things that were considered scrap but that to Johnson were perfectly ripe for new applications. Early projects included rockets, a robot, and a powerful sound system for parties. Johnson’s engineering degree took him to NASA, where he worked on the Galileo orbiter and probe. What Johnson really wanted to do, however, was build his own inventions. When trying to find an environmentally friendly solution to refrigerator and air-conditioning cooling systems, he stumbled upon what would eventually become his opus, the Super Soaker. Readers follow the many obstacles and setbacks Johnson experienced as he tirelessly worked to launch his invention. The narrative—based primarily on personal interviews the author had with Johnson—adeptly captures the passion and dedication necessary to be an engineer. The cartoonlike illustrations, rendered digitally with Manga Studio, combine child appeal with enough realism to accurately convey various scientific elements. Great care is taken to portray the institutional racism Johnson experienced, such as school tests that tried to dissuade his interest in engineering and his competing in a 1968 science fair in the newly desegregated but unwelcoming University of Alabama. The author’s note explains Barton’s mission to diversify common perceptions of what scientists and engineers look like and who they can be. This engaging and informative picture book exploration of Johnson’s life succeeds in that right. VERDICT Highly recommended for STEM and maker collections.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher’s School, Richmond, VA

Horn Book

From childhood, African American inventor Johnson was a tinkerer: “Lonnie loved building and creating. Ideas for inventions just kept on flowing.” We learn about how young Lonnie made model rockets—and rocket fuel (“When it caught fire in the kitchen, Lonnie’s mom didn’t make him stop. She just sent him to work outside”)—and how in 1968 the robot he built won first place at a science fair held at the University of Alabama, “where only five years earlier, African American students hadn’t even been allowed.” We learn of his college life at Tuskegee Institute (he was known to study even during his own parties, complete with a light-and-sound system he created); his breakthrough engineering work for NASA; and his development of a super-blast water gun. Barton describes Johnson’s ups and downs before he finally sold his Super Soaker to a toy company, but the straightforward text has a generally upbeat, you-can-do-it attitude. Tate’s clear digital illustrations, with their time-period-appropriate details in décor and clothing (from pegged jeans to bell-bottoms to cut-off shorts with knee socks) help situate readers; there’s no timeline provided (or even a birth year for Johnson). An appended note discusses Barton’s inspiration—to draw attention to diversity within the scientific community—and encourages readers to “put this book down, step away from the computer screen, and get permission to take something apart.” Terrific front and back endpapers provide simple schematics of some of Lonnie Johnson’s inventions. elissa gershowitz

Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

As a child, Lonnie Johnson was a “tinkerer,” or an avid collector of pieces and parts—all things that were considered scrap but that to Johnson were perfectly ripe for new applications. Early projects included rockets, a robot, and a powerful sound system for parties. Johnson’s engineering degree took him to NASA, where he worked on the Galileo orbiter and probe. What Johnson really wanted to do, however, was build his own inventions. When trying to find an environmentally friendly solution to refrigerator and air-conditioning cooling systems, he stumbled upon what would eventually become his opus, the Super Soaker. Readers follow the many obstacles and setbacks Johnson experienced as he tirelessly worked to launch his invention. The narrative—based primarily on personal interviews the author had with Johnson—adeptly captures the passion and dedication necessary to be an engineer. The cartoonlike illustrations, rendered digitally with Manga Studio, combine child appeal with enough realism to accurately convey various scientific elements. Great care is taken to portray the institutional racism Johnson experienced, such as school tests that tried to dissuade his interest in engineering and his competing in a 1968 science fair in the newly desegregated but unwelcoming University of Alabama. The author’s note explains Barton’s mission to diversify common perceptions of what scientists and engineers look like and who they can be. This engaging and informative picture book exploration of Johnson’s life succeeds in that right. VERDICT Highly recommended for STEM and maker collections.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher’s School, Richmond, VA

Horn Book

From childhood, African American inventor Johnson was a tinkerer: “Lonnie loved building and creating. Ideas for inventions just kept on flowing.” We learn about how young Lonnie made model rockets—and rocket fuel (“When it caught fire in the kitchen, Lonnie’s mom didn’t make him stop. She just sent him to work outside”)—and how in 1968 the robot he built won first place at a science fair held at the University of Alabama, “where only five years earlier, African American students hadn’t even been allowed.” We learn of his college life at Tuskegee Institute (he was known to study even during his own parties, complete with a light-and-sound system he created); his breakthrough engineering work for NASA; and his development of a super-blast water gun. Barton describes Johnson’s ups and downs before he finally sold his Super Soaker to a toy company, but the straightforward text has a generally upbeat, you-can-do-it attitude. Tate’s clear digital illustrations, with their time-period-appropriate details in décor and clothing (from pegged jeans to bell-bottoms to cut-off shorts with knee socks) help situate readers; there’s no timeline provided (or even a birth year for Johnson). An appended note discusses Barton’s inspiration—to draw attention to diversity within the scientific community—and encourages readers to “put this book down, step away from the computer screen, and get permission to take something apart.” Terrific front and back endpapers provide simple schematics of some of Lonnie Johnson’s inventions. elissa gershowitz

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