Friday, January 20, 2023

Books for Little Engineers

One of my favorite memories from homeschooling was all the engineering that went on around the house. One week it was building marble runs along a wall, another week it was designing a hand-powered elevator to hoist toys to the second floor. Inside winter activities are a great time to explore machines and building things.

theme: machines, engineering, reuse

Franny's Fix-It Shop 
by Edward Miller 
32 pages; ages 6-9
‎Holiday House, 2022

Franny Fixit can fix anything. Her robot friend, Robbie, knows a lot, too.

When a friend says he needs a new wagon, Franny suggests they fix it and give it a new coat of paint. She helps one friend fix a skateboard, another with a bike. As she repairs, she points out what’s broken and how it can be fixed. Along the way readers learn about wheels and axles, levers, inclined planes, and pulleys.

What I like about this book: I like how Franny presents repairing things as a way to help the environment. It’s a great way to reuse, recycle, or even repurpose things. I also like how she points out a problem, such as worn wheels, and then explains how they cause friction which slows down the skateboard. And when she talks about wheels and axles, illustrations show how axles are used in other applications. 

Working With Machines (Kid Engineer series)
By Sonya Newland; illus. by Diego Vaisberg
32 pages; ages 9+
Kane Miller Publishing, 2022

This book focuses on mechanical engineering. It introduces young readers to the concepts of work, force, and movement and the idea that they could be an engineer. Then it explains how simple machines work (levers, pulleys, axles, etc) and includes a hands-on activity to explore each type of machine. A great companion to Franny Fixit.

Beyond the Books:

Look for wheels and axles, wedges, screws, gears, levers, and other simple machines around your home. Around here I’ve got a wheelbarrow (lever and axle), skateboard (wheels and axles), and a pulley on the clothesline. What do you find?

Make a pulley out of an old thread spool. Then use it to pull a cup loaded with marbles up, up, up to the second floor. Here’s how.

Build a simple catapult to launch marshmallows into your cocoa cup. A catapult is a lever – one of the simple machines Franny talks about. Here’s directions.

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


  1. I love Franny's Fix-It Shop. There are a lot of kids who like and are good at fixing things. Our son could fix anything in our house when he was young, including our TV. Now it's my computers. This book is so kid-friendly and I like the emphasis on repurposing things.

    We have a lot of grandsons who are engeineers, with young children. They aren't ready for Working With Machines yet. But it certainly will be one I book mark. You paired two great books today. Also a good share for MMGM.

    1. what I learned from my kids, as they tinkered and built, is that anyone (even a mom) can be an engineer. As they pointed out later, when they were in high school: it's just applied problem-solving.

  2. This was our house not so long ago. I miss the chaos (and explosions), but now he's dreaming up space elevators, rocket payloads, and how mine asteroids. Oh, and beating us at Terraforming Mars on his school breaks. Thanks for sharing these terrific STEM books!

  3. You know what? we aren't too old to make our own chaos and explosions.... who's with me on playing around with some baking soda and vinegar?