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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

What’s the Big Idea? Inventions that Changed Life on Earth Forever

Reviewed: February 2, 2010
By: Helaine Becker
Publisher: Maple Tree Press
96 pages, $19.95

Aimed at middle school students, this clever book is the tale of how many inventions came about as the result of mankind’s desire to answer six basic needs: I’m alone, I’m sick, I’m scared, I’m hungry, I’m cold and wet, I’m tired.

“Innovation - the ability to come up with new ideas and use familiar objects in new ways - is something that makes us unique in the animal kingdom, It’s allowed us to invent everything from soap to steel, telephones to toilets, compasses to computers, In fact, the most incredible inventions of all time - the ones that have literally changed our world, have all burst forth to meet one of these six basic needs...”

Becker has divided the book into three large sections: Long, Long Ago; Long Ago; Not so Long Ago. Each section begins in the long ago with a single development and ends with a section in which the end result of just about everything already mentioned can be seen in a modern context.

There’s a section on inventions and on cultural innovations. There are Big Thinker sections which profile such key thinkers and developers as Archimedes, Leonardo, Bell, Faraday, Gates and Jobs. Closeups of settings in the schoolroom, the bathroom, the doctor’s office, and the kitchen show us where a lot of these inventions come together to serve our needs.

Written in a breezy style with lots of clever illustrations, sidebars, spinoff segments and and mini-fact sections, this is a book which will repay the young reader a lot of browsing and probably send him or her off to check out some of the internet references mentioned.

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