What’s the Big Idea: Inventions That Changed Life on Earth Forever


Some writers know how to weave facts with humor to make history fun, and author Helaine Becker is one of them. Her book, What’s the Big Idea? Inventions that Changed Life on Earth Forever, is an absolutely adorable collection of historic inventions and the people who invented them.

Becker proves the old theory that “necessity is the mother of invention” by first identifying the six basic human needs (health, communication, security, nourishment, protection and rest), then giving readers the humorous “low down” on how these needs inspired various inventions. She logically begins with the earliest and simplest inventions (the needle for sewing clothes; the plow for planting food; the water pump for providing water; the alphabet for promoting communication), then moves steadily toward the more complicated.

Following this (sort of) chronological order, Becker highlights inventions and spin-offs from the early days moving forward, including the compass for direction, lenses for reading, clocks for keeping appointments, and photograph techniques for those oh-so-special Kodak moments.

She tickles readers’ imaginations with both random and unified invention themes. Random themes include a section on the brilliance of Leonardo Da Vinci, a section on electric batteries and electric eels; and even a section on how a camera’s lens works. The unified themes include various and sundry inventions for the bathroom (terry-cloth towels, dental floss, toothpaste, mirrors, etc.); nations at war (drilling machine; saddle stirrups; catapult; and crossbow); and the doctor’s office (thermometer; the IV (intravenous drip); the x-ray.

This book has a little bit of everything and is perfect for almost any subject. It’s great for science classrooms, or for ideas for your child’s next big science project. It provides great social studies materials, and is sure to provide hours of discussion in history classrooms. It includes excellent vocabulary and great reading materials for a reading classroom, and it’s full content and hilarious full-color illustrations are sure to be a school library or home library favorite.

So if you’re looking for a lightweight, humorously-illustrated, thoroughly indexed (in the back) book that focuses on everything “invention,” be sure to get your hands on a copy of What’s the Big Idea? Inventions that Changed Life on Earth Forever.

Best wishes and happy inventing,

Rita Lorraine


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