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Best How-Things-Work Books

family mother reading to children book in tent in playroom at home

Children learn a lot about the world around them by reading books. Whether kids are looking for instructions for a hands-on experience or just want to understand how something they see or use every day works, how-things-work books can meet that need and spark curiosity about new topics, too. These books use simple language and imagery to give children a basic understanding of interesting concepts and help them further their love of learning.

“Balloons Over Broadway,” winner of the 2012 Robert F. Sibert Medal and the 2012 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award, tells the true story of Tony Sarg, who invented the beloved oversized balloons in the Macy’s Parade. It offers a closer look into his creations and his background as a puppeteer, following the evolution of Sarg’s puppets into the floating balloons that handlers now tug on from the street below. Author and illustrator Melissa Sweet uses science and history to discuss Sarg’s creative process, telling a playful story with help from amazing illustrations that cross multiple pages. The book is easy to follow even for younger readers and carries important lessons about how hard work and perseverance can pay off. This read is ideal for 4- to 8-year-olds.

Best Graphics

Car Science: An Under-the-Hood, Behind-the-Dash Look at How Cars Work (Hardcover)

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“Car Science: Under the Hood” helps kids ages 7-10 to discover where cars originated from and how they operate. The wording is easy to understand and the book includes masterful imagery. Each page is filled with facts, cutaway diagrams and key physics concepts perfect for curious minds. It challenges children with vehicle diagrams, provides insight into the future of cars and explores eco-friendly concepts. All of the pages are thick and durable enough to withstand daily use. Brilliant illustrations catch and hold children’s attention. The book is divided into four different sections that cover power, speed, handling and technology to ensure that children learn about the main concepts of motor vehicles.

Best Explanations

How a House Is Built (Paperback)

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“How a House Is Built” teaches children ages 4-8 about the process of home construction through simple language and bright illustrations. Author Gail Gibbons explains how people in different professions, including carpenters, electricians, landscapers and plumbers, contribute to building a home. The book simplifies complicated construction processes, making it ideal for even younger children. Each page features a close-up look at a project and work vehicles used to build a house, and detailed illustrations prevent kids from becoming distracted while following along. Real vocabulary associated with construction is also used, which makes the book even more educational for children who are learning new vocabulary words.

Best STEM Education


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Kids ages 9 -12 who love science and technology will appreciate “Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future,” which takes readers through the process of building robots. It provides children with the basic tools necessary to create their own robots using ordinary craft materials and other items from around the house. The book teaches kids how to create working models of robotic hands and arms while writing computer programs, and they’ll even learn how to design working circuits. The book touches on math, engineering, science and technology concepts while prompting children to try new activities. Hands-on projects are included that will keep kids busy and flex their problem-solving skills.

Most Interesting

Mistakes That Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions & How They Came to Be (Paperback)

List Price: $11.99 USD
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“Mistakes That Worked” is as informative as it is entertaining, and it’s aimed at kids ages 8 to 12. It covers a variety of items including toys, clothing, devices and even foods, from Coca-Cola to potato chips, that were made by mistake The stories are short and concise to ensure they’re easy to understand, and include colorful, funny imagery that engages readers with each invention and will have them laughing as they read. Abstract concepts are translated into digestible pieces for young kids to grasp and remember. This book can help children adjust their view of mistakes, teaching them how mistakes can have positive outcomes.

Expert Commentary 

“How-things-work books are like taking a trip to the children’s museum without the parking, entrance fees and meltdowns,” Kelsey Daubenmier says. “This genre is one of my favorites, providing children with deep insights to the inner workings of the world’s most interesting places, inventions and even events, such as the Macy’s Parade. Children sometimes take for granted the exceptional inventions they see and use every day, such as cars. Once children experience these books, they are more likely to ask how things work when they see something new, opening up the opportunity for more conversation and even more reading.”

Our Expert Consultant

Kelsey Daubenmier

Kelsey Daubenmier is a licensed primary school teacher with over 10 years of experience in primary education. Kelsey thoughtfully balances the demands of raising four children with the never-ending stack of papers to grade and lesson plans to prepare. In the last decade, Kelsey has gained experiences educating children as young as 5 and as old as 11. She is passionate about bringing the best possible baby and children’s products to you and your loved ones.