How Things Work

A book probably isn't the best place to learn how things work. Taking apart a toaster, changing spark plugs on a car engine, or building a crystal radio is going to give you a far better sense of the inner workings of technological systems than words and pictures on a page. Books can be a good place to start, though, especially if you don't have the resources to hand your kids as many old appliances as it would take for them to teach themselves electrical engineering.

How many kids have gone on to become mechanics whose fathers forbade them from entering the garage? Or carpenters, whose parents didn't want them getting wood chips in their hair and clothes? How often does a couch potato learn to fly airplanes in virtue of her laziness? While there are exceptions of course, kids who aren't allowed to investigate it will generally end up ruled by technology, unable to comprehend its "mysteries."

Mechanical devices—from cars and trucks to microwaves and waffle irons that double as lawnmowers—fascinate children....that is, until we attach all kinds of limitationsto them and snuff out any genuine interest. Half the reason we have a population of inept adults is that, increasingly, children are prevented from learning how to actually do anything. The best remedy for this uniquely modern malady is for parents to allow and guide their children in all kinds of practical endeavors, from working on the family car to building a bookcase to figuring out why the toaster no longer toasts.

But what do you do when you (the parent) don't know how to do those things yourself? While you could just dive in, a better option might be to get a book and start at the beginning. Our section is regrettably limited, but we're always looking to expand it with helpful and appealing titles—if you know of any, don't hesitate to send titles or series our way. In the meantime, we encourage you to teach your kids what you know, have a friend teach them practical skills beyond your ability, and just let them have a good time learning on their own, whether it's taking apart a small motor or putting it back together again.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

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53 Items found Print
3-D Engineering
from Nomad Press
for 3rd-6th grade
in Architecture and Sculpture (Location: ELE-ARC)
$9.00 (1 in stock)
All About Engines and Power
All About Books #45
by Sam & Beryl Epstein
from Random House
for 3rd-6th grade
in All About Books (Location: VIN-ALL)
Basher Science: Engineering
by Simon Basher, Tom Jackson
Reprint from Kingfisher
for 2nd-6th grade
in Basher Science (Location: SCI-BASH)
$9.99 $6.00 (1 in stock)
Basher Science: Technology
Basher Science
by Simon Basher, Dan Green
Pap/Pstr from Kingfisher
for 3rd-6th grade
in Basher Science (Location: SCI-BASH)
$8.99 $6.29 (1 in stock)
Coolest Cross-Sections Ever!
by Richard Platt, Stephen Biesty
from DK Publishing
for 4th-8th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
Cut and Make Space Shuttles
by David Kawami
from Dover Publications
for 4th-9th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$2.00 (1 in stock)
DK Eyewitness: Film
DK Eyewitness Series
by Richard Platt
from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
History Reference for 4th-8th grade
in Theater, Drama & Film (Location: ELE-THEAT)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
Do It Yourself: Simple Machines
by Buffy Silverman
from William Heinemann
for 3rd-5th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
Electronics
DK Eyewitness Series
by Roger Francis Bridgman and Jack Challoner
from DK Publishing
Science Reference for 4th-8th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$9.00 (1 in stock)
Engines
by Theodore Gray, photographs by Nick Mann
from Black Dog & Leventhal
for 5th-12th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$32.00
First Book of Automobiles
by Jeanne Bendick
from Franklin Watts
for Kindergarten-3rd grade
in Vintage Nonfiction (Location: VIN-NFIC)
First Book of Machines
by Walter Buehr
from Living Library Press
for 4th-6th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$12.95
First Book of Machines
by Walter Buehr
from Franklin Watts
for 4th-6th grade
in Vintage Science & Math (Location: VIN-SCI)
$5.20 (1 in stock)
Forensic Science
by Alex Frith
from Usborne
for 4th-6th
in Espionage & Forensic Science (Location: SCI-CRIME)
Home Machinist's Handbook
by Doug Briney
1st edition from McGraw-Hill
for 10th-Adult
in Dangerous Books for Kids (Location: SS-DAN)
How and Why Wonder Book of Machines
by Dr. Jerome J. Notkin and Sidney Gulkin, illustrated by George J. Zaffo
from Charles E. Merrill Company
for 3rd-6th grade
in How and Why Wonder Books (Location: VIN-H&W)
How and Why Wonder Book of Machines
by Dr. Jerome J. Notkin and Sidney Gulkin, illustrated by George J. Zaffo
from Wonder Books
for 3rd-6th grade
in How and Why Wonder Books (Location: VIN-H&W)
How Do Airplanes Fly?
Ask Isaac Asimov
by Isaac Asimov and Elizabeth Kaplan
from Gareth Stevens Publishing
for 2nd-4th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
How Does it Work?
by Richard M. Koff
from Doubleday & Company
for 9th-12th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
How They Were Built
from Barnes & Noble
for 3rd-6th grade
in Architecture and Sculpture (Location: ELE-ARC)
$3.00 (1 in stock)
How Things Work - 4 Volume Set
by Roger J Segalat
from George Allen & Unwin Ltd.
for 9th-Adult
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
How Things Work: Everyday Machines - Coloring Book
by Scott MacNeill
from Dover Publications
for 2nd-6th grade
in Miscellaneous Coloring Books (Location: COL-MISC)
$4.99
How Things Work: Vehicles - Coloring Book
by Scott MacNeill
from Dover Publications
for 2nd-6th grade
in Transportation Coloring Books (Location: COL-TRANS)
$4.99
How to Build a Motorcycle
Technical Tales
by Saskia Lacey, illustrated by Martin Sodomka
from Quarto Knows
for 3rd-6th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
Ideas That Changed the World: Transportation
by Philip Wilkinson and Michael Pollard, Illustrated by Robert Ingpen
from Chelsea House Publishing
for 4th-7th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
Incredible Cross-Sections
by Stephen Biesty
from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
for 3rd-6th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
Machines
Usborne Understanding Science
by Clive Gifford
from Usborne
for 3rd-6th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$3.60 (1 in stock)
Make it Work! Machines
by Andrew Haslam & David Glover
from Scholastic Inc.
for 3rd-6th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
Milliken: Machines and Work
from Milliken Publishing
for 5th-9th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
Questions and Answers Mighty Machines
by Stephen Angel
from Parragon Publishing
for 4th-8th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$4.50 (1 in stock)
Robotics
by Tony Potter, Ivor Guild
Revised from Usborne
for 4th-6th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$3.15 (1 in stock)
See How It's Made
from DK Children
for 3rd-7th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$9.50 (2 in stock)
Shape: The Purpose of Forms
Science At Work
by Eric Laithwaite
from Franklin Watts
for 3rd-6th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Ships and Boats
by Chris Oxlade
from Shooting Star Press
for 4th-6th grade
in Ships, Boats & Submarines (Location: HISV-SHIP)
$5.00 (2 in stock)
Simple Machines and How They Work
by Elizabeth N. Sharp, illustrated by Ida Scheib
1st edition from Random House
for 4th-6th grade
in Vintage Nonfiction (Location: VIN-NFIC)
Simple Machines: Wheels, Levers, and Pulleys
by David A. Adler, illustrated by Anna Raff
from Scholastic Inc.
for Kindergarten-2nd grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$3.00 (1 in stock)
Space Shuttle Operator's Manual
by Kerry Joels
from Ballantine Books
for 7th-12th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Stories Behind Everyday Things
from Reader's Digest
for Adult
in Science Reference (Location: SCIREF)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
Super Structures
DK Inside Guides
by Philip Wilkinson
from DK Publishing
for 4th-6th grade
in Architecture and Sculpture (Location: ELE-ARC)
$9.50 (1 in stock)
Teaching Technology Through Interest Projects
by Jennifer Katherine Brooks
from Critical Thinking Books
for 3rd-12th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$14.99
The Rejects
by Nathan Aaseng
from Lerner Publishing Group
for 4th-8th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
Trucks - Coloring Book
Educational Read & Color Books
by Peter & Linda Spizzirri
from Spizzirri Press
for 2nd-5th grade
in Transportation Coloring Books (Location: COL-TRANS)
$3.95
Underground
by David Macaulay
from Houghton Mifflin
for 4th-8th grade
in Architecture and Sculpture (Location: ELE-ARC)
$12.99
Visual Dictionary of Everyday Things
DK Visual Dictionaries
from DK Publishing
for 8th-Adult
in Oversized Science Books (Location: SCI-OVER)
$6.00 (2 in stock)
Watch it Made in the U.S.A.
by Bruce Brumberg, Karen Axelrod
3rd from Avalon Travel Publishing
for 7th-Adult
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Way Things Work Now
by David Macaulay & Neil Ardley
3rd edition from Houghton Mifflin
for 4th-10th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$35.00
What is a Wall, After All?
Read and Wonder
by Judy Allen, illustrated by Alan Baron
from Candlewick Press
for Kindergarten-2nd grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$4.00 (2 in stock)
What Makes a Car Go?
by Scott Corbett, illustrated by Leonard Darwin
5th printing from Atlantic Monthly Press
for 1st-4th grade
in Vintage Nonfiction (Location: VIN-NFIC)
What's Inside? Great Inventions
What's Inside?
from DK Publishing
for 1st-3rd grade
in Inventions & Discoveries (Location: SCI-INV)
$3.50 (1 in stock)
Wheels at Work in the Country
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$2.50 (1 in stock)
Why Things Don't Work: Tank
by David West
from Raintree
for 3rd-6th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$7.00 (1 in stock)
Why Things Don't Work: Train
by David West
from Raintree
for 3rd-6th grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Writing it Down
by Vicki Cobb, Illustrated by Marylin Hafner
from J.B. Lippincott Co.
for 1st-3rd grade
in How Things Work (Location: SCIREF-HOW)
$7.00 (1 in stock)