Friday, May 3, 2019


Written by Jennifer George

Illustrated by Ed Steckley

Invention design by Jospeph Herscher and Ed Steckley

(Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017)

Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who devised complex, convoluted pathways for accomplishing everyday tasks. There would be a setup of pulleys and hammers, balances and levers that would be set  in motion like a chain of dominoes. This book takes an ordinary school day and imagines how a young Rube might make them more interesting through a series of linked steps. Simply waking up is no longer so simple. It requires a ray of sunshine reflecting off a mirror, ricocheting off and warming (and thus lightening) a wet towel which the raises its half of a balance...and so on and so forth. A boxing glove, a train set, a vacuum cleaner and a pitcher of water also come into play, creating a ten-step wake-up routine.

Oh, my.

A classic Rube Goldberg cartoon                            
Young readers will study the illustrations at length and then read the directions, imagining how a particular circuit might play out in their own lives while also possibly finding the glitchier steps in each sequence. Who wouldn't want to try getting dressed with a chain of events that begins with sliding down a banister? And why  not board the school bus by launching onto a zip line from your front doorsteps? Finding a hungry goat might get in the way of Rube's plan for sneaking into class late, but the sequence will put a smile on the reader's face. Art and P.E. teachers may have to brace for their rooms being completely transformed to make room for Rube's painting and hoop-throwing contraptions.

No doubt, kids will want to draft their own sequences for accomplishing ordinary tasks. There are, in fact, Rube Goldberg Machine contests held each year in which teams create their own multi-steps chains for doing a particular task such as putting money in a piggy bank. More information can be found at

Whether this book inspires kids to create a team or simply amuses them by looking at the fourteen tasks presented within, it's a book that should definitely be added to classroom and home libraries.

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