Garrett’s Store (A Tiny Thinkers Book), by M.J. Mouton & illustrated by Jezreel S. Cuevas

My Copy: 9780998314747 (image from bn.com)

When it comes to children’s books, the Tiny Thinkers series is probably the most wonderful looking books I’ve ever seen for kids. Certainly books that are like mini biographies of scientists and great thinkers, especially. The illustrations are vivid and wonderfully expressive. And the language isn’t too difficult to grasp, even if it’s in rhyme like most non-chapter kids books.

Garrett’s Store is the sixth of these books (I’m missing a few, time to go shopping again). This one in particular talks about Garrett Morgan, whose name rang a bell (which is why I had to pick this one up to read tonight).

Garrett Morgan was an inventor in the early 1900s, an engineer and tinkerer who had a store that sold some of his inventions. But he was also a black man in a time of rampant prejudice, and as such, people tended to go to the store across the street where they would pay more money every time, even though both stores had the same stuff.

The book has Garrett trying to understand what it was about him that folks didn’t like or why they’d be willing to pay more elsewhere. Things changed when there was a fire in town and some guys in the fire department noticed Garrett and his competitor had smoke masks on their walls for sale. Basically, it was an early version of a fire-fighters hood that prevented you from breathing smoke for a certain time.

I won’t spoil what all happened (it’s a short read, anyway), but let’s just say things changed big time for Garrett after that.

Normally I wouldn’t review many children’s books (unless they were nostalgic as all hell, like the Scary Stories Treasury or Shel Silverstein’s awesome poetry collections). But in this day and age with kids needing examples to follow, a push toward more STEM training (though all the subjects need a major push now, if you ask me), and to find out how scientific thinking works, these books are fantastic for younger kids to read. Garrett’s Store is just the most recent one. There’s one on Carl (Sagan), Charlie (Darwin), Rachel (Carson), Ada (Lovelace), and Richie (Feynman). All these inspiring thinkers who learned to look at the world around them in different ways are good stepping stones into more deep thinking for kiddos.

I’m all for that. I guess deep down it’s upsetting and irritating to hear someone go “why does my kid need to learn that?” rather than being happy they’re expanding their minds and learning stuff. Maybe it’s insecurity that they can’t help–heaven knows the way kids are taught has changed a lot since I was their age, and they’re a full grade level ahead of where I started in each grade nowadays.

Anyhoo, these books make science and looking at the world with fresh eyes approachable and interesting. Garrett’s Store adds a new angle in that this inventor (who went on to invent hair straightener, smoke-filtering hoods, traffic lights and have a few dozen patents) had to deal with racism, and because of said racism, he got no real credit for what he was doing and had to use proxies to get his stuff out there.

The whole series is a worthwhile read, and the stories are told in very enjoyable ways. I recommend them to anyone with kiddos who wants them to be open to the possibilities education can bring. School should be more than read the book, do the questions, pass the state test. It should expand horizons, and these stories of younger versions of great inventors and scientists make scientific literacy a little more possible.

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