Best Children's Books About Innovation

23 Books that Teach Kids about Solving Problems, Creating, and Exploring New Ideas

Updated Jan. 19, 2019

"Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared."
- J.K. Rowling

The importance of innovating and creative problem solving is no well-kept secret. Every list of the latest must-reads seems to include an ever-growing spotlight on books profiling and praising the creators and makers of today.

Innovation isn't a skill we either have or don't have. The reality is, for most successful innovators and for most of us, creativity is a learned skill. Creativity takes practice. Creativity takes a consistent, iterative effort before we develop the confidence we'll need to invent cures to diseases, solve complex social issues, or write code for world-changing apps.

One of our guiding principles is that early learning is powerful learning with compounding effects, so we've compiled a list of the best children's books with characters who demonstrate creative thinking and unique approaches to the problems they face. These books introduce children to new ideas and teach them about thinking outside the proverbial box.

Rosie Revere, Engineer book
#1
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she’s a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions her one unfinished goal—to fly—Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt’s dream come true. But when her contraption doesn’t fly but rather hovers for a moment and then crashes, Rosie deems the invention a failure. On the contrary, Aunt Rose insists that Rosie’s contraption was a raging success: you can only truly fail, she explains, if you quit. From the powerhouse author-illustrator team of Iggy Peck, Architect comes Rosie Revere, Engineer, another charming, witty picture book about believing in yourself and pursuing your passion. Ada Twist, Scientist, the companion picture book featuring the next kid from Iggy Peck's class, is available in September 2016.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer book
#2
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Written by Mark Twain
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from Lemony Snickers

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a memorable classic with an entertaining mix of juvenile musings and attitude, elementary-school-style romance, sneaky midnight blood oaths with best friends, and of course, the silent witness of a graveyard murder. At its climax, Tom Sawyer keeps readers on edge as they tread carefully--and then frantically--with Tom through the cave where the runaway killer hides.

They’re Puffin Classics for a reason, it’s because they’re the best Tom Sawyer is sure to find trouble wherever the river leads him . . . On the banks of the Mississippi River, Tom Sawyer and his friends seek out adventure at every turn. Then one fateful night in the graveyard they witness a murder. The boys make a blood oath never to reveal the secret, and they run away to be pirates in search of hidden treasure. But when Tom gets trapped in a cave with scary Injun Joe, can he escape unharmed?

Max's Castle book
#3
Max's Castle
Written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Boris Kulikov
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Mr. Stacatto

This is definitely a great book on introducing the idea of innovation and it's done in a very clever manner. Many of the objects and words in the book are made out of letter blocks and Max gets himself out of danger by rearranging those word blocks or swapping one letter out for another. For example, when facing a dangerous adder, Max borrows a block with the letter "L" to turn the dangerous snake into a useful ladder.

When Max finds a pile of forgotten toys under the bed, his brothers Benjamin and Karl wonder what’s so special about some old blocks. So Max shows them. With some clever twists of both blocks and imagination, he constructs not only a castle but an entire adventure, complete with pirates and knights, a dark dungeon and a dragon. This ingenious sequel to Max’s Words and Max’s Dragons shows readers just how much fun wordplay can be.

Even Monsters Need Haircuts book
#4
Even Monsters Need Haircuts
Written and illustrated by Matthew McElligott
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This little boy sees a need (all the monsters need haircuts, too!) and finds a creative way to solve the problem and fill the need. :)

Just before midnight, on the night of a full moon, a young barber stays out past his bedtime to go to work. Although his customers are mostly regulars, they are anything but normal--after all, even monsters need haircuts. Business is steady all night, and this barber is prepared for anything with his scissors, rotting tonic, horn polish, and stink wax. It's a tough job, but someone's got to help these creatures maintain their ghoulish good looks. Perfect for Halloween, this is a hilarious story about a boy who follows in his father's footsteps . . . in his own monstrously unique way.

The Whale in My Swimming Pool  book
#5
The Whale in My Swimming Pool
Written and illustrated by Joyce Wan
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

I'm a huge fan of Joyce Wan's signature illustration style (as a side note, did you know she can even make worms look cute?! I digress). This cute book combines a preposterous situation with one little boy's innovation and problem-solving to create happy humor and good feels all around.

One sunny day, a little boy heads outside for a swim, but his pool is already taken . . . There's a big whale in the water and it's not budging! The boy tries everything to get the whale to leave. Nothing seems to work. Not fetch. Not tag. Not even offering his allowance. What's a boy to do? Luckily, he comes up with the perfect solution: he decides to chill out on a spray of water over the whale's spout. This colorful whale of a tale from the talented Joyce Wan is sure to inspire giggles from little guppies!

Beautiful Oops! book
#6
Beautiful Oops!
Written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

A life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: It’s OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn’t ruin a drawing—not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don’t be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator. An award winning, best-selling, one-of-a-kind interactive book, Beautiful Oops! shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. A singular work of imagination, creativity, and paper engineering, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion “telescope”—each demonstrating the magical transformation from blunder to wonder.

This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer book
#7
This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer
Written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Daniel Roode
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

The whole "This Little..." series so far has been excellent, and this is no exception. Jam-packed with famous scientists and innovators, This Little Scientist does a great job of featuring a broad spectrum of great minds of diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise all throughout history. One of my favorite things about this book is that it teaches real science and history with cadence and rhyme that makes it easy to learn and since it's enjoyable to read again and again... it starts to stick! Another big plus of this book for me is that depending on a child's current attention level you can choose to read just the left-hand pages, just the right-hand pages, or both, and the flow is great any way you do it!

Learn all about scientists who changed history in this engaging and colorful board book perfect for inventors-in-training! Asking why. Then making a guess. Asking how. Then proving with tests. Little scientists make great big discoveries. In this follow up to This Little President, This Little Explorer, and This Little Trailblazer now even the youngest readers can learn all about great and empowering scientists in history! Highlighting ten memorable scientists who paved the way, parents and little ones alike will love this discovery primer full of fun, age-appropriate facts and bold illustrations.

The Templeton Twins Have An Idea book
#8
The Templeton Twins Have An Idea
Written by Ellis Weiner and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Suppose there were 12-year-old twins, a boy and girl named John and Abigail Templeton. Let's say John was pragmatic and played the drums, and Abigail was theoretical and solved cryptic crosswords. Now suppose their father was a brilliant, if sometime confused, inventor. And suppose that another set of twins—adults—named Dean D. Dean and Dan D. Dean, kidnapped the Templeton twins and their ridiculous dog in order to get their father to turn over one of his genius (sort of) inventions. Yes, kidnapped. Wouldn't it be fun to read about that? Oh please. It would so. Now in paperback, this is just the first in a series perfect for boys and girls who are smart, clever, and funny (just like the twins), and enjoy reading adventurous stories (who doesn't?!). And now, there's more!

The Big Ideas of Buster Bickles book
#9
The Big Ideas of Buster Bickles
Written and illustrated by Dave Wasson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

Hip hip hooray for innovative, big ideas and families that encourage them! I love that when Buster feels brought down by his peers, his mom turns to their extended family to help show Buster love, support and validation for his ideas. Yes, they're zany (and we wouldn't actually want the world to be made of ice cream!), but if you start thinking big when you're little, hopefully you never stop! The illustrations are definitely on the edgier side of cartoon-esque and add to the craziness of Buster's Big Ideas.

Buster Bickles's big ideas are always getting him into trouble. But when Buster gets to test the newly invented What-if Machine, anything Buster imagines becomes reality. Packed with rivers of chocolate, robot dinosaurs, and eggs-ray vision, the world becomes Buster's creation in this fantastically creative picture book by debut author-illustrator Dave Wasson.

Harold and the Purple Crayon book
#10
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This book is a wonderful example of imagination leading to creation. I love how when Harold makes a mistake with his purple crayon, he quickly thinks of an innovative solution to change his journey. :)

Essential Picture Book Classics—timeless stories for every child to treasure. "One night, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight." Armed only with an oversized purple crayon, young Harold draws himself a landscape full of wonder and excitement. Full of funny twists and surprises, this joyful story shows just how far your imagination can take you. Harold and the Purple Crayon has delighted readers of all ages for over fifty years.

Lily Wool book
#11
Lily Wool
Written and illustrated by Paula Vasquez
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8
Thoughts from The Goodfather

Lily Wool is such a playful and inventive tale! I love the message of the story, that Lily Wool embraces her differences to find her unique voice and contribution among the members of her flock. As a business owner myself, I also love her resourcefulness in opening her seamstress shop!

A little lamb with a great big imagination. A new picture book from Paula Vasquez filled with delightful illustrations depicting a little lamb intent on being true to herself. Lily Wool gets bored with all of the grazing and resting that the herd does and prefers to count stars and dream of adventures. When Lily finds a strand of loose wool, she lets her imagination run wild and has a grand time until she accidentally unravels a problem. Children will love seeing how Lily Wool puts her imagination and creativity to work to fix things, and how Lily discovers a way to help others while she finds her special place in the herd. Paula Vasquez,an avowed artist from childhood, studied graphic design at the Universidad Cat�lica de Chile, and honed her illustration skills with a post-graduate diploma from Finis Terrae University. She currently lives in Santiago de Chile writing and illustrating children's picture books.

The Wonderful Things You Will Be book
#12
The Wonderful Things You Will Be
Written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Illustrations and simple, rhyming text reveal a parent's musings about what a child will become, knowing that the child's kindness, cleverness, and boldness will shine through no matter what, as will the love they share.

The Robot Book book
#13
The Robot Book
Written and illustrated by Heather Brown
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from The Fun Uncle

This is a fun story about what makes a robot special! It's not the gears and the cool arms, it's the "software" underneath. Lots of fun interactions with this book.

Richly illustrated, interactive book answers the question: “What makes a robot tick?†This robot has two eyes, two arms, and two legs, but what really makes him tick? Inside The Robot Book, Heather Brown answers that question within an interactive story that features actual working--and moving--parts. Gears and cogs are mounted on each illustration to keep little fingers and imaginations engaged. While the junior engineer is tinkering away, parents will also be charmed by the story's warm text, which reveals the true secret behind what makes our robot tick. Here's a little hint: It isn't a gear, or bolt, or some other mechanical part, it's what's in his heart that counts the most. Perfect for year-round gift-giving, the book will be packaged inside a protective poly-bag.

Sarabella's Thinking Cap book
#14
Sarabella's Thinking Cap
Written and illustrated by Judy Schachner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

From the bestselling creator of Skippyjon Jones, a heartwarming story about the importance of imagination and creativity. Sarabella is always thinking—conjuring, daydreaming, and creating new worlds from her imagination. There is so much going on in her head that it can barely be contained. But there are times when daydreaming is decidedly not a good thing—like when you’re supposed to be doing multiplication tables. Luckily, Sarabella has an understanding teacher and with his encouragement She comes up with her own idea to show everyone who she is.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret book
#15
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Written by Brian Selznick
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

How To Eat Fried Worms book
#16
How To Eat Fried Worms
Written by Thomas Rockwell and illustrated by Emily Arnold Mccully
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Billy isn't one to back down from a bet. But this one is gross: If he eats fifteen worms in fifteen days, Alan will pay him fifty dollars. Billy takes the bet and tries worms smothered in ketchup, drowned in mustard, even breaded and fried. Worm by worm, Billy gets closer to victory, and to buying the minibike he's always wanted. But Alan won't let him win that easily...

The Town of Turtle book
#17
The Town of Turtle
Written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Catia Chien
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

When a solitary turtle decides to make some renovations to his shell, he doesn’t have a blueprint, only a dream for a better life. He starts by building a deck—though he figures the deck could use a fireplace. And a fireplace needs wood, so naturally, he plants a garden. But it isn’t really a garden without a pond . . . Soon, Turtle can barely recognize his own shadow. Finally satisfied with the intricate world upon his back, word begins to spread of the magical “Town of Turtle,” attracting newcomers from far and wide. All are welcome in Turtle’s town, where life is a little less lonely, if only you come out of your shell.

ABCs of Engineering book
#18
ABCs of Engineering
Written and illustrated by Chris Ferrie
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

A new book in the bestselling series with simple explanations of complex ideas for your future genius! It only takes a small spark to ignite a child's mind! The ABCs of Engineering introduces babies (and grown-ups!) to a new engineering concept for every letter of the alphabet - including entries for various aspects of engineering like mechanical, architectural, and beyond. With a tongue-in-cheek approach that adults will love, this installment of the Baby University board book series is the perfect way to introduce basic concepts to even the youngest mathematicians.

Inventors Who Changed the World book
#19
Inventors Who Changed the World
Written by Heidi Poelman and illustrated by Kyle Kershner
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

From the ranging curiosity of Leonardo da Vinci to the dedication and sacrifice of Marie Curie, Little Heroes: Inventors Who Changed the World is a young child's first introduction to the brilliant people who taught us the meaning of perseverance and innovation. Simple text and adorable illustrations tell the contributions of nine renowned inventors from around the world: Cai Lun, Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Grace Hopper, Mary Sherman Morgan, and Nikola Tesla. Inspire your own little inventor with the words of these inventive heroes who changed the world.

This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer book
#20
This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer
Written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Daniel Roode
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-5

Learn all about influential women who changed history in this engaging and colorful board book perfect for trailblazers-in-training! Paving the way to a future that’s bright. Helping the world with their skills, smarts, and might. Little trailblazers cause great big changes. In this follow up to This Little President and This Little Explorer, now even the youngest readers can learn all about great and empowering female trailblazers in history! Highlighting ten memorable women leaders who paved the way, parents and little ones alike will love this girl power primer full of fun, age-appropriate facts and bold illustrations.

A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning book
#21
A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning
Written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Brett Helquist
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

NOW A NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. They are charming, and resourceful, and have pleasant facial features. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally unlucky. In the first two books alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, a lumpy bed, a deadly serpent, a large brass reading lamp, a long knife, and a terrible odor. In the tradition of great storytellers, from Dickens to Dahl, comes an exquisitely dark comedy that is both literary and irreverent, hilarious and deftly crafted. Never before has a tale of three likeable and unfortunate children been quite so enchanting, or quite so uproariously unhappy.

Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding book
#22
Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding
Written by Linda Liukas
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

"Code is the 21st century literacy and the need for people to speak the ABCs of Programming is imminent." --Linda Liukas Meet Ruby--a small girl with a huge imagination. In Ruby's world anything is possible if you put your mind to it. When her dad asks her to find five hidden gems Ruby is determined to solve the puzzle with the help of her new friends, including the Wise Snow Leopard, the Friendly Foxes, and the Messy Robots. As Ruby stomps around her world kids will be introduced to the basic concepts behind coding and programming through storytelling. Learn how to break big problems into small problems, repeat tasks, look for patterns, create step-by-step plans, and think outside the box. With hands-on activities included in every chapter, future coders will be thrilled to put their own imaginations to work.

The Three Things book
#23
The Three Things
Written and illustrated by Annie Ruygt
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

The Nothing, the Something, and the Everything invite you to read their story.... they are always comparing their creative abilities. Who's way is best? After testing their talents, will they discover the winner, or will they learn a lesson they did not expect would surface?

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.