February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Maker Bookshelf: A starter collection for current and aspiring makebrarians | The Maker Issue


One of the basic tenets and strengths of the maker movement is its emphasis on constructive and collaborative learning through hands-on, trial-and-error experimentation. While a live mentor demonstrating and leading activities is the gold standard, a growing number of titles offer inspiration, support, and clarification for a wide variety of maker topics. The following list of recommended books was crowdsourced by librarians running maker spaces and/or offering maker programming in their libraries or schools.

Professional reading

DOORLEY, Scott, Scott Witthoft, & the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration. Wiley. 2012. pap. $49.95. ISBN 9781118143728.

Focuses on the dynamics of the physical arrangement and design of creative spaces. Perfect for libraries just starting to plan.

FLEMING, Laura. Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School. Corwin. 2015. (Corwin Connected Educators). pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781483382821.

A soup-to-nuts guide to planning, implementing, and maintaining a school maker space on a variety of budgets.

MARTINEZ, Sylvia Libow & Gary S. Stager. Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Constructing Modern Knowledge. 2013. pap. $34.95. ISBN 9780989151108.

Essential to understanding the philosophical and pedagogical underpinnings of the Maker Movement in education, this book also offers specific examples on how to integrate maker activities into lesson plans.

WILKINSON, Karen and Mike Petrich. The Art of Tinkering. Weldon Owen. 2014. Tr $32.50. ISBN 9781616286095.

More inspirational than instructive, this work beautifully highlights the endless possibilities for the intersection of art and technology by showcasing the works of over 150 maker artists.

3-D Printing

DIANA, Carla. LEO the Maker Prince: Journeys in 3D Printing. illus. by Carla Diana. Maker Media. 2013. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781457183140.

Gr 2-6– A picture book introduction to 3-D printing. Great for prepping elementary-aged children on basic capabilities and mechanics.

MURPHY, Maggie. High-Tech DIY Projects with 3D Printing. (Maker Kids). Powerkids Pr. 2014. lib. ed. $27.50. ISBN 9781477766705; pap. $11.75. ISBN 9781477766767.

Gr 4 Up– For librarians and students just getting started with 3-D printing, this title offers basic instructions and several fun project ideas.


DOORLEY, Rachelle. Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors. Roost Books. 2014. pap. $21.95. ISBN 9781611800654.

PreS-Gr 2– From the creator of www.Tinkerlab.com, this guide for grown-ups provides 55 experiments and activities to do with the tiniest tinkerers. Ideal inspiration for maker-themed family programs at the library.

GABRIELSON, Curt. Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff. Maker Media. 2013. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781449361013.

Gr 3 Up– Tied directly to science curricula, this book includes step-by-step hands-on experiments that feature no- or low-cost materials.

LARSEN, Elizabeth Foy & Joshua Glenn. Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun. illus. by Heather Kasunick & Mister Reusch. Bloomsbury. 2012. Tr $25. ISBN 9781608196418.

Gr 2 Up– This guide is chock-full of low-tech, high-tech, old-school, and cutting-edge activities that encourage kids to explore, take things apart, and not be afraid to fail.


BRIGGS, Jason R. Python for Kids. 2012. pap. $34.95. ISBN 9781593274078.

MORGAN, Nick. Javascript for Kids. 2014. pap. $34.95. ISBN 9781593274085.

WEINSTEIN, Eric. Ruby Wizardry. 2014. pap. $29.95. ISBN 9781593275662.

ea. vol.: No Starch Pr.

Gr 4-8– Vibrant and visually engaging, with chuckle-worthy asides, these introductory guides to computer programming languages are instructive and kid-friendly.

THE LEAD PROJECT. Super Scratch Programming Adventure! No Starch Pr. 2013. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9781593275310.

Gr 3-7– Using a graphic novel format, colorful visuals, and helpful sidebars with definitions, this book is a superb resource for Scratch newbies.

Robotics & Electronics

BDEIR, Ayah & Matt Richardson. Make: Getting Started with littleBits: Prototyping and Inventing with Modular Electronics. Maker Media. May 2015. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781457186707.

Gr 3 Up– This is an introduction to littleBits, electronic building blocks used to create simple circuits, robots, and microcontrollers. Bdeir guides readers through the basics of using these snappy, magnetic modules.

MONK, Simon. 15 Dangerously Mad Projects for the Evil Genius. McGraw-Hill/TAB Electronics. 2011. pap. $25. ISBN 9780071755672.

Gr 8 Up– Geared toward older students and adults, this book offers step-by-step instructions for advanced electronic projects such as a touch-activated laser sight, an LED strobe, and a surveillance robot. Mad scientist approved.

Peppler, Kylie, Melissa Gresalfi, Katie Salen Tekinbas, & Rafi Santo. Soft Circuits: Crafting e-Fashion with DIY Electronics. ISBN 9780262027847.

——-. Short Circuits: Crafting e-Puppets with DIY Electronics. ISBN 9780262027830.

ea. vol.: The MIT Press. 2014. (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning). Tr $30.

Gr 5 Up– This series offers projects that can be completed by kids with a bit of adult help. In Soft Circuits, makers learn to create wearable technology, like a solar-powered backpack. In Short Circuits, students learn about using microprocessors and create a DIY flashlight.

TODD, Sylvia. Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Project Book: Super-Simple Arduino, Volume 2. illus. by author. Constructing Modern Knowledge Pr. 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9780989151160.

Gr 4-8– Twelve-year-old Sylvia Todd, the whiz kid who creates STEM videos at www.sylviashow.com, here offers her preteen fans a fun and easily digestible intro to Arduino, the popular open-source electronics platform.

VALK, Laurens. The LEGO™ Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book. No Starch Pr. 2014. pap. $34.95. ISBN 9781593275327.

Gr 5 Up– Though pricey, the LEGO™ Mindstorm kits teach basic programming and robotics. This full-color guide offers accessible, step-by-step instructions for making the most of these powerful bots.


D.I.Y. Crafts

LUPTON, Ellen & Julia Lupton. D.I.Y.: Kids. Princeton Architectural Pr. 2007. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781568987071.

Gr 2-6– Found objects and household items combine for fun and easy arts & crafts activities. These low-tech crafts are perfect for beginning D.I.Y.ers.

MORGAN, Richela Fabian. Tape It & Make It: 101 Duct Tape Activities. Barron’s. 2012. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781438001357.

Gr 3 Up– A staple in the toolbox of every Do-It-Yourselfer, the fix-anything adhesive now comes in a delightful variety of colors and patterns. This eye-catching book will help crafters create wallets, neckties, masks, purses, and more.

Paper Arts

HARBO, Christopher L. Flight School: Level 1. ISBN 9781429647410.

——-. Copilot: Level 2. ISBN 9781429647427.

——-. Pilot: Level 3. ISBN 9781429647434.

——-. Captain: Level 4. ISBN 9781429647441.

ea. vol.: (Paper Airplanes). Capstone/Edge Books. 2011. lib. ed. $20.49.

Gr 1-5– The humble paper airplane is a low-cost way to explore paper engineering and the principles of aerodynamics. Crisp photos and clear diagrams make the folding process foolproof.

ROCHE, Art. Art for Kids: Comic Strips: Create Your Own Comic Strips from Start to Finish. illus. by author. Sterling. 2011. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781402784743.

Gr 1-5– Roche not only offers tips on how to create characters, but also guides kids through the creative planning and storyboarding unique to a three-panel format.

SCHWAKE, Susan. Art Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Adventures in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper, and Mixed Media for Budding Artists of All Ages. photos by Rainer Schwake. (Lab Series). Quarry. 2012. pap. $22.99. ISBN 9781592537655.

Gr 1 Up– With an emphasis on process and technique over product, this book helps educators guide children through open-ended projects that progressively increase in difficulty.

WATSON, Esther. Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine? illus. by Mark Todd. HMH. 2006. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780618563159.

Gr 7 Up– Unique and personal self-published mini magazines, zines offer myraid avenues of creativity for tweens and teens. Watson introduces 21 zine creators, whose works and enthusiasm will inspire the next generation of indie artists and authors.

Storytime Picks for Little Makers

BEATY, Andrea. Iggy Peck, Architect. 2007. ISBN 9780810911062.

——-. Rosie Revere, Engineer. 2013. ISBN 9781419708459.

ea.vol.: illus. by David Roberts. Abrams. Tr $16.95.

Two born makers uses their STEM talents to save the day in these charmingly illustrated tales. Iggy uses found objects and a knack for engineering to build a trestle to help his classmates when a field trip goes awry. Rosie, inspired by her Great-Great Aunt Rose (a famous WW II riveter), constructs a flying contraption. Both titles would pair well with STEM activities, such as making spaghetti bridges or designing Rube Goldberg machines.

BREEN, Steve. Violet the Pilot. illus. by Steve Breen. Dial. 2008. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803731257.

Violet loves all thing mechanical and can fix almost anything. Sadly, this doesn’t win her any friends at school. With her canine copilot, Orville, at her side, she builds an airplane and enters an air show in the hopes of impressing her classmates. Vibrantly colored cartoon art makes this ideal for group sharing. Endpapers depicting Violet’s design provide a great jumping off point for an extension activity.

SPIRES, Ashley. The Most Magnificent Thing. illus. by author. Kids Can Pr. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554537044.

A little girl determines to create “the most magnificent thing” using household objects and tools. With her bemused pug looking on, she tinkers and constructs, with unsatisfactory results. After having a major meltdown, she regroups and ultimately triumphs after much trial and error. Spires articulates in text and images the realistic frustrations common to tinkerers. A funny and charming ode to trying (and trying and trying) again.

YAMADA, Kobi. What Do You Do With an Idea? illus. by Mae Besom. Compendium. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781938298073.

A tender visual metaphor for nurturing creativity. A little boy has an odd idea. It is not valued or encouraged by others, but he tends to it nevertheless. Shown as an egg sporting legs and a crown, his idea grows and eventually hatches. Finely detailed black-and-white pencil drawings allow the bright, golden egg to pop on the page. Inspirational reading for any young maker.

Contributors include Erica Thorsen Barber, Tina Berumen, IdaMae Craddock, Stacy Dillon,
Shawna Ford, Colleen Graves, Nancy Jo Lambert, Amy Laughlin, Jenny Lussier, and Diana Rendina.

This article was published in School Library Journal's May 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Kiera Parrott About Kiera Parrott

Kiera Parrott is the reviews director for School Library Journal and Library Journal and a former children's librarian. Her favorite books are ones that make her cry—or snort—on public transportation.

Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA

Do you want to ensure that your library’s collections are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and well-read?

Do you want to become a more culturally literate librarian and a more effective advocate for your community?

We've developed a foundational online course—with live sessions on February 28 & March 14—that will explore key concepts essential to cultivating and promoting inclusive and equitable collections.