Friday, June 14, 2019

Just Like Rube Goldberg

Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines 
by Sarah Aronson; illus. by Robert Neubecker
48 pages; ages 3 - 8
Beach Lane Books, 2019

themes: invention, imagination, biography

Question: How do you become a successful, award-winning artist and famous inventor without ever inventing anything at all?

If your name is Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, you do it in very circuitous manner. First, you get a degree in engineering and work for a city department of water and sewers. Then you quit and get a job cleaning the newspaper office. And in your free time you draw until the editor finally gives you a job. Then an earthquake crumbles the city around you, so you move across the country and do it again. And somewhere along the way you start inventing “screwball contraptions” – complex machines that use chain reactions to perform a simple task.

What I like love about this book: I have heard about Rube Goldberg my entire life, but it wasn’t until I read this book that I learned he was the son of Jewish immigrants. And his father didn’t want him to go into art. I knew Rube had designed all manner of silly machines that could do everything from exterminating a mosquito to hailing a street car. But I hadn’t put his cartooning into context: he began inventing his cartoon contraptions during the age of invention.

I like Robert Neubecker’s art. This spread in particular – a maze of pipes through which the text of the story runs. And I love that the end pages contain drawings of Rube Goldberg’s machines. I also like the back matter – more information about Rube and a short list of selected sources.

Beyond the book:

You can learn more about Rube Goldberg here

You may have seen a Rube Goldberg machine featured in a TV ad, like this one.

Try your hand at designing and building your own Rube Goldberg machine. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • A contraption that helps you get across water.
  • A way to do one of those pesky household chores.
  • Invent a way to get up or get down.
  • A squirrel-proof bird feeder.

You can find some helpful hints on making Rube Goldberg machines here.

Next Wednesday author Sarah Aronson will be chatting with me over at the GROG Blog. Come on over and join us!

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review copy provided by the author.


  1. This is an awesome picture book! I just read it recently and was amazed to learn this genius is the man behind the off-the-charts cool gadgets in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

  2. Thanks for the reminder. I've been meaning to read this book, and just put it on hold at the library. I love how he did what he was passionate about, despite his father's expectations.

  3. I'm excited to read this one, and I'm hoping it might inspire my kids to try designing and building their own Rube Goldberg machines. What a fun summer project!

  4. Perfect book for kids who like to make/invent things of their own. Goldberg is an inspiration! Want to read his story.

  5. I love this book! Especially the connection of the art to Sarah's text and Rube Goldberg's life. It is definitely a "must read" as far as I am concerned. Great review, too!

    1. the text and art really do fit together - by the genius of illustrator Rob Neubecker!

  6. What a clever book this is. Kids will really love this. Making and inventing things of their own will keep them occupied for hours, days, months!

  7. Well, I am going to have to get my hands on this book. It looks great. I don't know much about Goldberg either. Thanks for the heads up.