Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 5.11.16 Super Soakers!

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog is to give educational professionals
new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

Oh, super soakers.  When I hear about them, I cannot help but think of my own super soaker story.  I was 16 years old.  Maybe 17.  And super soakers had become THE toy.  And you know when a toy is the IT toy... lines, calling the stores to see if a shipment arrived, chaos.  Well, the Sunday toy advertisement had come out, I called the store and... they had them!  I was so excited.  I knew just what I wanted to do - I would be a great big sister and go get them for my brother and me to play with.  No one else was home, but that wasn't a problem.  I had the keys to the car and it was in the garage.  I was absolutely giddy!  I was going to do something good and we would have so much fun.  Got in the car and it was time to go.  Problem is, you're supposed to open the garage door before you back out.  I have no idea how I did that.  But that sound of the car hitting the closed garage door is something that is forever ingrained in my mind.  And when you put a dent like that in the garage door, well, opening it and closing it doesn't quite work right.  Needless to say, I did not go get a super soaker that day.  And from that moment on, whenever I see a super soaker, a dented garage door comes to mind.  And maybe a big punishment.

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
written by Chris Barton
illustrated by Don Tate
published by Charlesbridge

When I saw Chris Barton's new book, I knew it was one I needed to get just because of the childhood memories associated with the super soaker.  And seeing that this was another collaboration between Chris and illustrator Don Tate, (if you haven't seen their The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, be sure to check it out now!) it gave me one more reason to own this book.

Summary from Amazon:
A cool idea with a big splash
You know the Super Soaker. It’s one of top twenty toys of all time. And it was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, impressive inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy.
A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity began early in Lonnie Johnson’s life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, persistence and a passion for problem solving became the cornerstone for a career as an engineer and his work with NASA. But it is his invention of the Super Soaker water gun that has made his most memorable splash with kids and adults.

Recently, the Makerspace movement is getting a good push.  Makerspace, defined as a DIY space where people gather to create, invent and learn, has become popular in libraries and classrooms.  There were several times when I stopped and marked pages or sentences that reminded me of the Makerspace ideals.  What a perfect book to use when talking about what the spirit of Makerspace is all about.  Barton writes, "Lonnie loved building and creating.  Ideas for inventions just kept on flowing."  And then later the phrases "facing challenges, solving problems, building things" are used.  Perfect phrases for Makerspace!

Image result for whoosh lonnie johnson's super-soaking stream of inventions

Looks like a Makerspace area was all ready for young Lonnie!

What a great book to use when talking about perseverance.  Early on in the book it talks about an invention that Lonnie created that didn't achieve success right away, in fact it was years before he got it right!  He kept tinkering with the invention until it did.  Success doesn't happen overnight.  I liked that a layout shows how Lonnie's sound system and electronics were great at parties, but while he was working the electronics during these parties, he was also studying.  Those who go above and beyond and add extra effort into their work over time can get results!  But as he found out, it takes time.  On one page, Barton says "his dream had been challenged."  I really like the way that is worded.  His dream wasn't over just because someone, or some test, said no.  His dream was just challenged.  But he came to learn from these challenges.  In fact, Lonnie was working on a solution to another  problem when he finally came up with the super soaker!  He learned that new ideas can come from failed ideas, or ideas that didn't work!

One of my favorite parts is reading about the support he had from his parents.  Even when setting accidental fires in the house, his mom just told him to go outside, not to stop!

Barton includes an author's note at the end that gives us a little more information about what Lonnie Johnson is doing today and the way he does things.  In fact, Barton writes in the author's note to first get permission, then go take things apart so you can see how they work.  Because that is how Lonnie Johnson would do things.  

Go create!


  1. You must have been super excited to go get the super soaker, Michele. What a funny story, at least to us! I imagine you were not too happy for a while. Alyson just shared this too, and it does look terrific. I love all your ideas about how it can be used. My school is supporting a teacher in charge of a "maker space" next year. Everyone has always supported kids in this but it's going to be an added bonus for core teachers and students needing extra help.

  2. Your story is so vivid! I cringed while I read it, and now I will always think of super soakers when I see dented garage doors.

  3. So sorry about the garage door! I think this book is likely to be a great way to look into how invention often works - trial and lots of error. ;)

  4. Lots of love for Whoosh this week! I can't wait to read more of this uncommon named inventors of common things/games!