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Our 2022 Summer Challenge: Thomas Edison's Secret Lab is all about STEAM – science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. We have a whole exhibit at our Central Library (it's huge – have you seen it yet?) encouraging families to experiment with science. You can operate simple machines, learn basic coding, explore a giant Periodic Table of Elements and more.

To mark the start of the Summer Challenge, we asked our staff to tell us their favorite science-related books and movies (sci-fi totally counts!).

Book River
Book River Items

The House That Cleaned Itself : the True Story of Frances Gabe's (mostly) Marvelous Invention (2019)

by Laura Dershewitz

This is a fascinating and quirky true story written by local authors. It is about a woman named Frances Gabe who disliked housework so much that she created inventions to make the house clean itself! Her home eventually included almost 70 new patented inventions, including a soap-spraying sprinkler in the ceiling and a kitchen cabinet that washed, dried and stored dishes all in one place. Even though her inventions did not catch on, this book shows young readers what is possible with a little out-of-the-box thinking and persistence. — Erin Emerick, Early Literacy Librarian

Dazzle Ships : World War I and the Art of Confusion (2017)

by Chris Barton

A lieutenant-commander in the British Navy came up with an innovative idea for stopping German U-boats from sinking their supply ships. Since it was impossible to paint a ship to not be seen by a submarine, the Navy tried the extreme opposite—painting the ships with patterns to confuse the submarines about which direction the ships were going, making them more difficult targets. This book and its colorful illustrations bring dazzle ships to life in a way that even photographs can’t, since photos of the time were black and white. — Erin Emerick, Early Literacy Librarian

Back to the Future (2020)

by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A 1985 Oscar-winning comedy movie where Michael J. Fox plays Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student who is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean car invented by his close friend, the eccentric scientist Doc Brown. Fun and entertaining! — Janet Glatzhofer, Information Desk Assistant

The Absent-minded Professor (2003)

by Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Disney's 1961 movie with Fred MacMurray is about a befuddled, yet brilliant, college professor who invents an anti-gravity substance which a corrupt businessman wants for himself. This is family entertainment at its best! — Janet Glatzhofer, Information Desk Assistant

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1993)

by Walt Disney Home Video

A 1989 Disney comedy film in which four kids are shrunk to the size of ants by one of their scientist father's (played by Rick Moranis) inventions. An astonishing, innovative backyard adventure for the family! — Janet Glatzhofer, Information Desk Assistant

The Only Woman in the Room (2019)

by Marie Benedict

Hedy Lamarr was not only a beautiful movie star, but an inventor. This is a fiction book based on a real person who was overlooked until recently for her scientific accomplishments. — Tina Reitz, Branch Assistant

The Girls of Atomic City : the Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II (2013)

by Denise Kiernan

An awesome book about women and men who worked on the atomic Bomb, but didn't know it.  Amazing how they kept 30,000 people from talking. Where did they get the work force, the housing, recreation, food, transportation and shopping? These questions and more are answered. — Cheryl Freeze, Circulation Assistant

Ford V Ferrari (2020)

by Inc Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

The remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby and the fearless British-born driver Ken Miles. — Carol Kalvig, Information Desk Assistant

Bombshell : the Hedy Lamarr Story (2018)

by Reframed Pictures

Most people do not know that this 1930s and 1940s film icon was the inventor whose concepts were the basis of cell phone and Bluetooth technology.  She perfected a radio system to throw Nazi torpedoes off course during WWII but was never given the credit until the mid-1990s. — Carol Kalvig, Information Desk Assistant

Invented by Animals : Meet the Creatures Who Inspired Our Everyday Technology (2021)

by Christiane Dorion

This whimsically-illustrated nonfiction book showcases the many unique animal traits that have inspired human inventions. This is a fun and informative read! — Allison Riggs, Teen Librarian

The Electric War : Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse and the Race to Light the World (2019)

by Mike Winchell

This young adult narrative nonfiction title tells the story of Thomas Alva Edison, Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse's intense race to be the first to light the world with electricity.  — Allison Riggs, Teen Librarian

Whoosh! : Lonnie Johnson's Super-soaking Stream of Inventions (2016)

by Chris Barton

Learn how Lonnie Johnson invented the mechanics for the popular summer toy the Super Soaker. This book will inspire young readers to invent their own creations! — Allison Riggs, Teen Librarian

Saving the Day : Garrett Morgan's Life-changing Invention of the Traffic Signal (2021)

by Karyn Parsons

This picture book biography is told in rhyme about Garrett Morgan, the inventor of the traffic signal, whose invention we see every day and take for granted. The book doesn’t go into great detail, but it captures the spirit of his life and is very interesting. He was an African American who grew up in a time filled with racism and discrimination, yet the authors’ notes reveal he became a prominent businessman and inventor who also invented the gas mask. A fascinating person I enjoyed learning more about.— Gail Tobin, Hanover Park Branch Manager