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“There is no work so discouraging, so exasperating, so delightful, so mean, so difficult, so exhilarating as building aeroplanes,” Lilian Todd, 1910. –Wood, Wire, Wings.
Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane
by Kirsten W. Larson
Problems always set Emma “Lilian” Todd’s mind soaring—even as a girl. Growing up during the golden age of invention and born into a family of inventors, Lilian couldn’t hold strips of wire or bits of tin without tinkering. She turned toys and trash into useful inventions.
But when Lilian grew up and learned that inventing wasn’t considered women’s work, she decided to do the next best thing. She got a job at the U.S. Patent Office typing up plans for brand-new inventions—and constructing each contraption in her mind. Soon, she engineered her own fantastic flying machines, testing and tweaking her designs and overcoming each obstacle. Lilian found inspiration in nature and her many failures until her biggest dream finally took flight.
Lilian’s story comes alive in beautiful, brightly colored illustrations. Each illustration will help readers understand the plot as well as Lilian’s inventions. Each page has 2 to 8 sentences that include some complex sentences and difficult vocabulary; therefore, the picture book should be read by an adult the first time. The text includes quote bubbles that contain quotes from Lilian. The end of the story includes an author’s note with photographs, supplemental information, and a timeline.
Wood, Wire, Wings is mentioned in the Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People in 2021 and shows the importance of perseverance and determination. Lilian’s story has many interesting facts, but younger readers may have a difficult time sitting through the entire story. Despite this, Lilian’s story will motivate readers to reach for their dreams. In addition, Lilian’s story will inspire young people to try to invent things with simple household items. Young readers who are interested in engineering and creating should read the Questioneers Series by Andrea Beaty. Strong readers should also add the Ellie, Engineer Series by Jackson Pearce to their reading list.
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