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How Things Work And Are Made: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about how things work and are made?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to how things work and are made. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about how things work and are made.

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about how things work and are made, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Ice Cream Cones for Sale! to popular sellers like Balloons Over Broadway to some of our favorite hidden gems like Baby 101: Architecture for Babies.

We hope this list of kids books about how things work and are made can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

Balloons Over Broadway
Written & illustrated by Melissa Sweet
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Presents a tribute to the creator of the giant balloons that fill the sky during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, tracing the work of artist Tony Sarg, whose innovative “upside-down puppet” creations have become the parade’s trademark.

Baby 101: Architecture for Babies
Written by Jonathan Litton & illustrated by Thomas Elliott
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-3

It’s never too early to get an A+ in architecture! Here’s a fun new board book series that introduces a wide array of nonfiction subjects to babies and toddlers. Welcome to Baby 101, where big subjects are tailored for little babies. Featuring simple words and bright and engaging illustrations, this introduction to architecture includes information about how buildings are made, featuring famous sites like the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, and the pyramids. So don’t be late, because this is one class that babies won’t want to miss. Look for the surprise lift-the-flap ending!

Space Squad
Written by Finn Coyle & illustrated by Srimalie Bassani
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A diverse range of space scientists introduce the machines they use to explore and study space. Children will discover the spectacular space fleet, including a carrier rocket, spaceplane, space exploration vehicle, satellite, and the International Space Station. As children are asked if they know what each machine does, the answer is revealed on the next page.

About the Finn’s Fun Trucks series: Written by 11-year-old truck enthusiast Finn Coyle, the Finn’s Fun Trucks series provides a vocabulary-rich introduction to transportation for truck-loving children with the help of a diverse range of vehicle operators and community helpers.

Building Machines
Written by Ian Graham & illustrated by Carles Ballesteros
board book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

Building Machines explores the powerful mechanics of construction vehicles and includes everything needed to build nine machines with working parts! The construction vehicles introduced are a forklift, bulldozer, front loader, giant digger, dump truck, road roller, crane, and tractor. Each spread describes the vehicle in detail, including its parts and function. The spreads also include instructions for constructing the machine described using the included die-cut pieces. Children can follow the steps to make each vehicle, then use the pieces to invent their own. It’s the perfect introduction to simple mechanics for budding engineers everywhere.

Whose Tools?
Written by Toni Buzzeo & illustrated by Tom Froese
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

An ode to building a house from the ground up profiles six kinds of craftsmen and the 24 tools they use, with the answer to each question about “whose tools” being revealed under seven gatefolds designed to promote curiosity and learning. By the Caldecott Honor-winning author of One Cool Friend. 30,000 first printing.

  • Rapid Responders - Community helpers keep us all safe and they have special machines that help as well. Police cars, coast guard cutters, ambulances, rescue helicopters, and fire trucks each serve our community in their own way. Do you know what it is? Lift the page to learn what each machine does and discover what happens when they all work together!

  • Construction Alphabet - For fans of all things that go this noisy alphabet book explores construction equipment from A to Z. Find out about these construction machines and more, from a huge saw that cuts through roads to a massive vacuum that sucks up boulders. You’ll even learn a quick and easy recipe for concrete. Rock crushers, jackhammers, and wrecking balls will delight the youngest of readers learning their ABCs. Jerry Pallotta’s trademark humor punctuates the informative text. Vibrant oil paintings bring to life a busy construction site.

  • Baby Loves Structural Engineering! - Big, brainy science for the littlest listeners. Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this clever board book explores the basics of building—from foundation to rooftop—and ties it all to baby’s world. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby’s sense of wonder. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two, as well!

  • Robot - “From automata created by Leonardo Da Vinci to modern-day androids and animal robots, this book covers artificial intelligence (AI) throughout history. Discover the latest at the cutting edge of robotics, where science, technology, mechanical engineering, and computing meet as [the book] explains how robots work, how they are made, and how they help and sometimes hinder in modern society”—Publisher marketing.

With My Hands: Poems About Making Things
Written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater & illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Building, baking, folding, drawing, shaping . . . making something with your own hands is a special, personal experience. Taking an idea from your imagination and turning it into something real is satisfying and makes the maker proud. With My Hands is an inspiring invitation to tap into creativity and enjoy the hands-on energy that comes from making things.

Until I Met Dudley: How Everyday Things Really Work
Written by Roger McGough & illustrated by Chris Riddell
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Explores the fundamentals of everyday instruments and appliances and teaches children how they work, such as how a vacuum cleaner is able to suck up dirt and what makes the bread “pop” from the toaster.

Until I Met Dudley
Written by Roger McGough & illustrated by Chris Riddell
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Have you ever wondered how a toaster works? Or a fridge-freezer, or a washing-up machine? In this fun-filled book of how things work, Dudley, the techno-wizard dog, provides the answers. Roger McGough’s delightfully ingenious text and Chris Riddell’s striking illustrations take children from the furthest realms of fantasy into the fascinating world of technology to discover the workings of familiar machines, making it an exciting book which will delight again and again.

Two of the most inventive talents in children’s literature, poet Roger McGough and illustrator Chris Riddell use their unique skills for entertaining and inspiring young readers to introduce them to the secrets of the technology around them.

“Roger McGough’s witty text offers many weird and wonderful explanations … Chris Riddell’s artwork makes the whole an imaginative feast” - Bookseller

Runner-up for the English Association 4-11 Award for the Best Children’s Picture Book.

Nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal.

Engineering the ABC's: How Engineers Shape Our World
Written by Patty O'Brien Novak & illustrated by Don McLean
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Imagine a world without cars and computers, or toys and televisions, or movies and microwaves. Then imagine a world without engineers. Engineering the ABC’s answers questions about now everyday things work and how engineering relates to so many parts of a child’s daily life. In an entertaining and engaging way, this book shows how engineers shape our world.

Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin
Written & illustrated by Gene Barretta
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

What would you do if you lived in a community without a library, hospital, post office, or fire department? If you were Benjamin Franklin, you’d set up these organizations yourself. Franklin also designed the lightning rod, suggested the idea of daylight savings time, and invented bifocals-all inspired by his common sense and intelligence. In this informative book, Gene Barretta brings Benjamin Franklin’s genius to life, deepening our appreciation for one of the most influential figures in American history.

  • How to Build a Car - Learn about car mechanics and teamwork as three unlikely friends work to build a miniature racer. In How to Build a Car, three unlikely friends—Eli, a mouse; Phoebe, a sparrow; and Hank, a frog—decide to build a small motorcar together. The story follows the friendly trio as they learn all about how a car works and how it is constructed. Detailed illustrations show the inner workings of the car, teaching children the basics of how each part works together to get the car moving. Through hard work and perseverance, Eli, Phoebe, and Hank learn about both car mechanics and teamwork as they build a miniature racer. With the help of this sweet story, children will learn the different parts and functions of a car.

  • Dig! - Peek-a-DIG! Each hardworking construction scene will engage your little one with a pair of lift-a-flaps with peek-a-boo surprises. Talk about how roads, houses, and skyscrapers are built. Look at the machines that help construct them. Inside the flaps, you’ll find fun facts about items in the artwork.

  • Unbuilding - This fictional account of the dismantling and removal of the Empire State Building describes the structure of a skyscraper and explains how such an edifice would be demolished.

  • Neo Leo - Cleverly shows how Leonardo’s ideas foreshadowed modern inventions. At once an artist, inventor, engineer, and scientist, Leonardo da Vinci wrote and drew detailed descriptions of what would later become hang gliders, automobiles, robots, and much more.

Let's Make a Rainbow!: Seeing the Science of Light Refraction with Optical Physics
Written by Chris Ferrie
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Equip the next generation of scientists with a brand new series from Chris Ferrie, the #1 science author for kids!

Rainbows are beautiful! As Red Kangaroo admires one arching across the sky, she wonders where rainbows come from―luckily, Dr. Chris has the answer! With just two ingredients and three simple steps, Red Kangaroo learns all about the science behind these wonderful, colorful sights!

Chris Ferrie offers a kid-friendly introduction to light refraction and optical physics in this installment of his new Everyday Science Academy series. Written by an expert, with real-world and practical examples, young readers will have a firm grasp of scientific and mathematical concepts to help answer many of their “why” questions.

Perfect for elementary-aged children and supports the Common Core Learning Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) standards.

Hey, Hey, Hay! A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them
Written by Christy Mihaly & illustrated by Joe Cepeda
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Every bale of hay has a little bit of summer sun stored in the heart of it— learn from a mother-daughter team how hay is made!

Feeding her horses one cold and wintry day, a girl thinks about all the hard work that went into the fresh-smelling bales she’s using. The rhyming text and brilliant full-page paintings follow the girl and her mother through the summer as they cut, spread, dry and bale in the fields.

Mower blades slice through the grass./A new row falls with every pass./Next we spread the grass to dry./The tedder makes those grasses fly!
This celebration of summer, farming, and family, illustrated by Pura Belpré honor artist Joe Cepeda, includes a glossary of haymaking words, and a recipe for making your own switchel— a traditional farm drink, to cool you down in the summer heat.

A Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year

Ice Cream: The Full Scoop
Written & illustrated by Gail Gibbons
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Cool and smooth and sweet, ice cream has long been a favourite treat. It cools you off when it’s hot and is too delicious to resist even in cold weather. How did it get to be so scrumptious? Best-selling author/illustrator Gail Gibbons dishes out the latest scoop on ice cream production. Ice cream has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a mixture of snow, milk, and rice. Gail Gibbons details the many firsts in ice cream history, from the earliest ice cream crank to the original waffle cone. Children’s mouths will be watering as they follow ice cream’s journey from farm to factory to freezer.

Up! Up! Up! Skyscraper
Written by Anastasia Suen & illustrated by Ryan O Rourke
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Snappy rhymes invite young readers to watch workers dig, pour, pound, and bolt a skyscraper into existence. Simple yet satis-fying sidebars provide further information about each step in the construction process. Perfect for preschoolers and all those who dig diggers.

Quirky, colorful art enhance the appeal of a construction site with all the equipment and sounds of building.

The 2017 Summer Reading Theme: Build a Better World!

Friendly Fliers
Written by Finn Coyle & illustrated by Srimalie Bassani
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A diverse range of pilot characters introduce the vehicles that they fly. Children will discover an assortment of vehicles, including a jumbo jet, seaplane, glider, helicopter, and space plane. As children are asked if they know what each vehicle does, the answer is revealed on the next page.

About the Finn’s Fun Trucks series: Written by 11-year-old truck enthusiast Finn Coyle, the Finn’s Fun Trucks series provides a vocabulary-rich introduction to transportation for truck-loving children with the help of a diverse range of vehicle operators and community helpers.

  • Ice Cream Cones for Sale! - Colorful etchings and kid-friendly text reveal who really invented the ice-cream cone, even before the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair where five people claim they did so.

  • Let's Fly a Plane!: Launching into the Science of Flight with Aerospace Engineering - Equip the next generation of scientists with a brand new series from Chris Ferrie, the #1 science author for kids! How do airplanes stay up in the sky? That’s the question Red Kangaroo needs answered and she knows exactly who can help her―Dr. Chris! Explore the four forces of flight―drag, lift, thrust and weight―and get ready to take off with this introduction to aerospace engineering. Chris Ferrie offers a kid-friendly introduction to the science of flight in this first installment of his new Everyday Science Academy series. With real-world and practical examples, young readers will have a firm grasp of scientific and mathematical concepts to help answer many of their “why” questions. Perfect for elementary-aged children and supports the Common Core Learning Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) standards. Backmatter includes a glossary, comprehension questions aligned with Bloom’s Taxonomy and experiments kids can easily do at school or at home!

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