Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Slinky! 9.21.16

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.

The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation
The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring
The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation
by Gilbert Ford
published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Just added a new book to my list of favorite nonfiction picture books!  Loved so many things about this book:
  • concept
  • ideas
  • illustrations
The subtitle for this book explains a lot - "the accidental invention".  I would love to see a statistic that shows how many inventions were made on total accidents.  What started out as Richard James' invention for the Navy, and then through some trial and error and child play, ended up being the toy we know and love.  Ford walks us through some of the early problems of the slinky - getting the funding for it, discovering the fun of playing with it (especially for children), naming it, and getting the stores to buy into it.

I loved that there was an underlying theme of play to this book.  To show how an invention meant one thing but became a children's toy is powerful for young readers.  I loved the line,

"Today, the Slinky still inspires kids - of all ages, and all across the globe - to play."

I loved how this book spotlighted that ideas come from different places.  So often kids think an idea has to end exactly how it started.  This was a great book to show growth mindset!

I loved the illustrations!  They were definitely a stand out.  Many of us are familiar with the cover art Ford has done for numerous books (Natalie Lloyd's Snicker and Key to Extraordinary, Chris Grabenstein's Lemoncello series, Jonathan Auxier's Peter Nimble) and his award winning illustrations from Mr. Ferris and His Wheel.  This book is a departure from what we're used to, using digital drawings that are cut and photographed and using found items in the finished scenes.  Some of the found art really made the illustrations stand out.  I felt like it brought a "play-like" atmosphere to the book, which is a definite underlying theme.  This is a book that may end up on my Mock Caldecott list.

Image result for the marvelous thing that came from a spring

Image result for the marvelous thing that came from a spring

The author's note gave us some more information about what else happened to the James family after the initial success of the slinky.  I imagine there is enough to fill another picture book - one that spotlights how Betty James kept the company running.

Whether you're using this book to spotlight the toy, to show the power of a growth mindset or even to use it for makerspace, this book has a definite place in libraries everywhere.


  1. How exciting. I didn't know about this book, and what a great story to tell! It is amazing how many inventions become good for "other" uses. Thanks, Michele, will find this one!

  2. This week I've seen books about the invention of the super soaker and the invention of the slinky celebrating - it's a week of innovation, invention and discovery! I love stories about trial and error, and people turning mistakes into successes. We always tell children to follow their dreams, but it's so important to provide them with real examples of people doing just that, so they know how much hard work and even failure can be involved and don't lose heart when the going gets rough.