Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane

Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek. Feb. 2020. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781629799384.
Gr 2-4–While the Wright brothers are known for inventing the first airplane, another inventor wanted to make the design of the airplane more practical. Emma Lilian Todd, sparked by curiosity to tinker, engineer, and invent even as a child, worked to build her own airplane. The illustrations give life to this narrative nonfiction account of Todd’s upbringing and her thirst for solving problems through prototyping. Each gear and each part used in her childhood mechanical creations is drawn with noticeable detail. Movement is depicted through wispy clouds and bold strokes in the sky when the story focuses on Todd’s fascination with flight. Vivid colors add a warm, rich tone to match the extraordinary effort and care that Todd put into inventing. Quotations from the book’s subject and others mentioned in her story are sprinkled throughout the narrative, providing insight into Todd’s creative process. A detailed author’s note, photographs of the real Todd and her airplane models (with photo credits), a time line, and a selected bibliography are included in the back matter.
VERDICT This inspiring work shines a light on a lesser-known inventor who was the first woman to design an airplane. An excellent purchase for public and elementary school biography collections.

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