Engineer a Great Readaloud

Engineering titles for grades K-4

Dreaming Up: a Celebration of Building by Christy Hale

This book uses concrete poetry, illustrations and photography to showcase the power of play, exploration, and construction. Our youngest students will be able to relate to the images of blocks, forts, sandcastles and the like as they listen to the words and see photographs of architectural works. Brief biographical entries and quotes from architects are included in the end matter. A nice package for encouraging our youngest students to "dream up".

Author's website

If I Built a House & If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen

Van Dusen encourages readers to "think big" with these books featuring his trademark illustrations. In If I Built a House, Jack takes us on a tour of his design. Students are able to see how his model of cardboard, pipe cleaners and familiar household toys is transformed by his imagination into real rooms. If I Built a Car is inspired by Van Dusen's glimpses of car designs found in 50s and 60s issues of Popular Science Magazine. In this story, Jack begins with describing his creative process. He uses models for inspiration, then lets his imagination drive his invention. With vocabulary like "design, analyze, refine", this story also speaks to the continuous process of engineering.

Celebrations of creativity and design, these books offer an engaging storyline to get students thinking about possibilities. Be sure to check out the fabulous diagrams included on the end papers.

Author's notes on If I Built a Car

Author's notes on If I Built a House

Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin; illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Poor Old Man Fookwire can't seem to catch a break. All he likes in life is birds. To get them to stick around over the winter, he decides to build bird feeders for them. Unfortunately, the squirrels like the feeders just as much as the birds. The problem is one that everyone with a bird feeder in their backyard can relate to. What is the best design to deter those darn squirrels?

Fookwire demonstrates an analysis of his problem, gives evidence for his solution, and refines his design when it is not immediately successful. He also has a shift in his mindset by the end of the story. Pay careful attention to the pictures. Those clever squirrels are engineers as well! You can keep up with further feats of engineering with the other books in the series, Those Darn Squirrels Fly South and Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door!

Those Darn Squirrels Trailer

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts

Rosie is a creative genius. She upcycles what some would consider junk into creations that are designed with a clear purpose in mind. However, no one ever sees her inventions. Not since one of her designs was laughed at. Thankfully, a visit from her aunt changes all that. In finding a solution to her aunt's problem, Rosie learns to celebrate failure, and to persevere through design challenges. Be sure to check out Iggie Peck, Architect for another story about unusual constructions!

Author's website

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Papa's Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming; pictures by Boris Kulikov

"Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirrr!" Papa has not once invented anything that works perfectly. All he needs, though, is a fantastic idea! Join Papa and his family as he develops one fantastic idea and slowly perfects the design after many trials. Kulikov's illustrations showcase the technical adaptations made to the design over time. Based on actual events, this Red Clover Book Award nominee celebrates not only the spirit of wonder, but also the power of persistence.

Author's website

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer; pictures by Elizabeth Zunon

Scrap metal and spare parts combine with determination and vision in this biographical picture book. Kamkwamba details how at 14, he researched and developed a solution to the lack of electricity in his Malawian village. Though some thought him crazy, and materials for his design had to be found in scrap yards, Kamkwamba persevered and created "electric wind". Proof that young people can be engineers, too.

Bryan Mealer's website

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind