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Whoosh! : Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

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about the book



While growing up with five siblings, it was difficult for Lonnie Johnson to find enough space for all his stuff. He had rocket kits, bolts and screws, and who knows what else from the shed and junkyard.

He was a tinkerer, an aspiring engineer—even if the aptitude test said he wouldn’t make a good one.

Defying everyone’s expectations and prejudices, Lonnie went on to win the 1968 University of Alabama science fair, work on NASA’s Galileo project, and pursue his dreams of being an inventor.

Have you ever heard of the Super Soaker? Well, it’s Lonnie’s fault you got soaked.

How did he come up with the idea? What obstacles did he face while trying to put the toy into children’s hands?teachingbooks-book

about the author

chris barton


In elementary school, Chris Barton wrote the first story he shared publicly: The Ozzie Bros. Meet the Monsters. “Let’s get out of here!” was a recurring piece of dialogue.

Even though he was always writing—and was even on the staff of his university’s newspaper— Chris never really thought about becoming an author until he was a parent. His toddler enjoyed the story of how he installed a smoke detector, complete with sound effects and plot, so much that he was asked to tell the story over and over again.

Now Chris uses his degree in history to bring little-known stories to kids. Some of his titles include The Day-Glo Brothers, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, and The Nutcracker Comes to America. Not all of his books are historical in nature. Shark vs. Train is just plain silly.

Chris lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, four kids, and dog. If he’s not writing and researching, he can be found cooking, listening to music, and going for long walks and runs.


Author website
Author interview: Eerdlings
Author interview: BookPeople
Author interview: Laurie Ann Thompson

Also by Chris Barton:
88 Instruments. Knopf Books for Young Readers. 2016.
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. William B. Eerdman’s Publishing. 2015.
The Nutcracker Comes to America : How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition. Millbrook Press. 2015.
Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! : A Gamer’s Alphabet. Pow! 2014.
The Day-Glo Brothers : The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors. Charlesbridge Publishing. 2009.teachingbooks-author

about the illustrator

don tateAn extremely creative child, Don Tate went through several creative phases: macramé (tying knots to make textiles instead of weaving or knitting), copper enameling, clay, puppets, and finally figure drawing. In high school, when all the guys were trying to perfect their free-throw, Don was perfecting his drawing skills.

After receiving an associate’s degree in applied art from Des Moines Area Community College, Don worked as a graphics reporter at the Des Moines Register and Austin American-Statesman newspapers. He was also the art director of an advertising and market research firm. However, he’s now a full-time book illustrator and author.

The first book he illustrated, Say Hey: A Song of Willie Mays, was a biography about a baseball star. It was the first manuscript that was offered to him. Even though he’s never been a sports person, he accepted the job because he was desperate and determined to get a book published and have it in bookstores. He would have accepted practically any manuscript to accomplish this goal!

He is one of the founding hosts of The Brown Bookshelf, a blog dedicated to books for African American young readers. It contains book reviews, as well as author and illustrator interviews.

Even though Don doesn’t like sports, he is a “gym-rat.” He’s even competed in natural, drug-free bodybuilding.

Don currently lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and son.

Illustrator website
Illustrator interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Illustrator interview: Writing With a Broken Tusk
Illustrator biography: Wikipedia

Also by Don Tate:
Poet : The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. Peachtree Publishers. 2015.
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton. William B. Eerdman’s Publishing. 2015.
The Cart That Carried Martin by Eve Bunting. Charlesbridge Publishing. 2013.
It Jes’ Happened : When Bill Traylor Started to Draw. Lee & Low Books. 2012.
Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza. Charlesbridge Publishing. 2011.
She Loved Baseball : The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick. Balzer + Bray. 2010.teachingbooks-illustrator

read more!

day-glo brothers


The Day-Glo Brothers : The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton
Two very different brothers left the world a brighter place—literally! Bob was a planner who wanted to be a doctor. Joe was a magician and problem-solver. After an accident left Bob recovering in a dark basement, the two boys needed to do something to pass the time, so they experimented with fluorescent paint and ultraviolet light. What did they invent that you see every day?





Earmuffs for Everyone! : How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan McCarthy
December 21st is Chester Greenwood Day in Maine. Don’t know who that is? He’s the person you should thank for keeping your ears warm with ear muffs! In the late 1800s, Chester was so tired of his ears freezing during the long winters that he designed the first pair of ear protectors. By the time he was nineteen, he had patented his design. What else did Chester invent?





The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring : The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation by Gilbert Ford
In 1943, Richard James was a navy engineer while the U.S. was at war. As he was trying to figure out how to keep fragile ship equipment from vibrating in choppy seas, Richard came up with another, completely unrelated idea—or rather it fell from his shelf to his desk to the floor. The spring was taking a walk! Learn all about how the Slinky was invented!