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13 inspiring books that teach children about engineering

10 June 2024

Want to introduce young people to the world of engineering? This is a great place to start.

13 inspiring books that teach children about engineering
Seven Small Inventions That Changed The World by Roma Agrawal.

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. Engineers Making A Difference

Engineers Making A Difference
Engineers Making A Difference

Written by Dr Shini Somara, illustrated by Manual Sumberac and Adam Allsuch Boardman

Engineers are the superheroes of the real world.

They use their problem-solving skills to face down the biggest challenges we have, from creating clean energy to designing prosthetic limbs, from eliminating food shortages to programming AI to exploring the surface of Mars.

The inventors, technicians, scientists, tech entrepreneurs, and engineers featured in Engineers Making a Difference provide an insight into the exciting and diverse world of engineering.

In this book, you’ll meet 46 engineers, from apprentices and lab technicians to university professors and startup CEOs - including two of our members, Ayo Sokale and Mimi Nwosu.

They will tell you what problems they're solving, and why they love their jobs.

This expert guide will teach the next generation that whatever their interests and talents, they too could find the perfect career in engineering.

Buy the book

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

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

4.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

5. 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

6. Small Inventions That Changed The World

Small Inventions That Changed The World by Roma Agrawal
Small Inventions That Changed The World by Roma Agrawal

Written by Roma Agrawal, illustrated by Jisu Choi.

A second book by Roma Agrawal has made our list!

This book is about how all the technology and engineering around us only exist because of the invention of seven small things. These include the wheel, the magnet and the pump.

Travelling through centuries of history, the book looks at how the seven small inventions came to be, how they work and how they changed the world forever.

Find out how it's thanks to the potter's wheel that the International Space Station exists!

Buy the book

7. 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

8. 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

9. 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

10. 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

11. The Lions of Britannia Bridge (Books 1-4)

The Lions of Britannia Bridge
The Lions of Britannia Bridge

Written by FJ Beerling, illustrated by Lucy Gilbert

This book series 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

12. 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

13. Usborne Lift The Flap Questions and Answers: How Does It Work?

Written by Katie Daynes, illustrated by Marie-Eve Tremblay

Another Lift The Flap book from Usborne that will give children insight into how the infrastructure around them works.

It covers everything from what happens when you flush the toilet to why trains are better than cars.

It's a great way to show how engineering affects people's daily lives.

Buy the book

  • Anh Nguyen, digital content lead at ICE