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11 inspiring books that teach children about engineering

13 August 2021

Want to introduce young people to the world of engineering? This is a great place to start - there's even a book from acclaimed children's author Oliver Jeffers in the mix. 

11 inspiring books that teach children about engineering
How Was That Built by Roma Agrawal. Image credit: Bloomsbury Publishing

For as long as we have problems to solve in society, we’ll need engineers. So it’s crucial that we inspire the next generation to be curious about the world around them, and the role they can play in it.

Explaining this to a child may seem like a daunting ask but, thankfully, there are many books aimed at young people doing exactly this in a fun and inspiring way.

One engineer found that children can learn a lot about engineering indirectly by examining the intricate paper mechanisms of pop-up books:

But, for more help on planting the seed of engineering in the minds of children, here are some great reads.

1. Lift-the-Flap Engineering

Written by Rose Hall, illustrated by Lee Cosgrove

In our experience, you can’t go wrong with Usborne, and which child doesn’t love to see what’s hiding under a book flap?

Lift-the-Flap Engineering is aimed at children aged seven years upwards, but we can’t see why a (careful!) younger child couldn’t have a go with this one.

Buy the book

2. How Was That Built? The stories behind awesome structures

Roma Agrawal: How was that built cover
Roma Agrawal: How was that built cover

Written by Roma Agrawal,illustrated by Katie Hickey

Following the success of her book for adults, Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures, Roma the Engineer will be releasing a book for children in September.

Roma Agrawal, the award-winning structural engineer who worked on The Shard in London, takes readers on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of the world’s most amazing landmarks, such as Brooklyn Bridge in the US, the Pantheon in Italy, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Sapporo Dome in Japan.

It features detailed illustrations by Katie Hickey, showing cross-sections of buildings, skylines and close-ups of engineering techniques in action.

The book also includes ‘Try it at Home’ sections, which encourage kids to try out their own engineering experiments to learn about the impact of different forces and materials on a structure.

Buy the book

3.Mr Shaha’s Marvellous Machines

Written by Alom Shaha, illustrated by Emily Robertson

Written by science teacher Alom Shaha, Mr Shaha’s Marvellous Machines contains simple instructions for ‘building toys which fly, spin, whizz, and pop’.

The book provides step-by-step instructions for making 17 'machines' using scrap materials, which enables them to learn to recycle and reuse materials (without mentioning net zero carbon!), while learning about engineering and science.

For anyone who can’t get hold of the book, you can access some videos of related projects on the author’s website for free.

Buy the book

4. Rosie Revere, Engineer

Written by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

This beautifully-illustrated book often crops up in recommended reading lists, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s about a girl, Rosie Revere, who dreams of becoming a great engineer. She secretly makes amazing inventions out of items that have been thrown away, which she hides under her bed for fear of failure. But with the help of her great-great-aunt Rose, she learns to celebrate her creations in all their forms.

Buy the book

5. The Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words

Written and illustrated by Randall Munroe

For children who like to ask ‘why?’. Author Randall Munroe explains complex ‘things’ using only drawings and a vocabulary of just 1,000 of the most common words in English.

The man who created the comic xkcd covers everyday things from bridges (“very tall roads”) to tectonic plates (“big flat rocks we live on”) in Thing Explainer, all in a funny, interesting and easy-to-understand way.

Buy the book

6. Get Kids Into Survey

A time-splitting adventure that explores a future without geo surveyors, this comic aims to inspire future geo spatial experts.

It follows a gang of four, Maddison, Miles, Setsuko and Kwame, in a world on the brink of chaos because geo surveyors are being wiped out.

Who knew surveying could be so exciting!

Buy the comic

7. Over the Moon: The Novelization

Over the Moon: The Novelization
Over the Moon: The Novelization

Written by Wendy Wan-Long Shang, illustrated by Netflix

Based on the Netflix animated film Over the Moon, the book retells the story with original concept art.

Over the Moon is about a smart young girl called Fei Fei, who uses her passion for science – and lots of trial and error - to build a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a goddess who lives there. Cue the adventure of a lifetime!

Buy the book

8. My Mummy is an Engineer

Written by Kerrine Bryan and Jason Bryan, illustrated by Marissa Peguinho

Author Kerrine Bryan, an electrical engineer, tells us: “I wrote the book as a way to address biases and misconceptions about engineering, a career I thoroughly enjoy, and believe many others would too if they knew what it really involved.”

My Mummy is an Engineer covers a range of engineering fields, including civil and mechanical, and follows ‘Mummy’ on her adventures as an engineer working with her team in the office to visiting a construction site.

Buy the book

9. When I Grow Up

Written by Richard Smith, illustrated by Stuart Hinchliff

Construction firm NMCN produced the free book, When I Grow Up, to inspire young people to consider careers in the construction industry.

The children’s story book takes readers on the journey of twins Harry and Amy, who are thinking about their future jobs as part of their school careers day competition. The story covers a range of engineering activities that demonstrate how the work of the construction industry helps makes many other roles possible.

Buy the book

10. The Lions of Britannia Bridge

The Lions of Britannia Bridge
The Lions of Britannia Bridge

Written by FJ Beerling, illustrated by Lucy Gilbert

This book from Menai Heritage celebrates Robert Stephenson’s famous Britannia Bridge over the Menai Strait in Wales.

It follows a puzzle-loving girl, Uarda, who wants to become an engineer. To inspire her, her dad takes her to the Menai Strait, where she gets a surprise and makes a friend.

Buy the book

11. What We’ll Build: plans for Our Together Future

Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

"Let's build a tunnel to anywhere,

let's build a road up to the moon.

Let's build a comfy place to rest,

for we'll be tired soon."

In the same way that civil engineering provides tangible solutions to intangible problems, this offering from acclaimed children’s book author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers plays on the metaphorical meaning of ‘building’.

A story about a parent’s boundless love, What We’ll Build uses examples of structures to illustrate how a father and daughter lay the foundations of their life together.

Buy the book

  • Anh Nguyen, content strategy manager at ICE