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Top Five Books featuring inventors and inventions - Holly Rivers

My debut mystery-adventure, Demelza and the Spectre Detectors, focuses on a young inventor named Demelza, who loves nothing more than spending time in her attic bedroom creating weird and wonderful contraptions. As a child, I too was forever making, drawing and imagining — in fact, some of the gadgets in the book are actually things I attempted to make when I was a little girl. So put down your soldering iron and screwdrivers and take a look at my top 5 books featuring inventors and inventions.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket

As well as its twisted plots, dark humour, and oddball characters, this series contains one of my favourite inventors in literature — Violet Baudelaire. With a mind filled with pulleys, levers and gears, Violet often uses her gadgets to save her and her siblings from danger, as they attempt to escape the clutches of the evil Count Olaf. I adore the way Snicket describes Violet quickly tying back her hair back with a ribbon every time that inspiration strikes, as if to rid herself of any trivial distractions. She’s a wonderful S.T.E.A.M-girl character with plenty of spark in every sense.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Ian Fleming

I’ve adored the character of outlandish inventor Caractacus Pott (or ‘Commander Crackpott’ as he’s known by his neighbours) ever since childhood, and this wonderful book has inspired my own writing no end. Fleming’s descriptions of Pott’s fantastical inventions fizz with energy — there’s collapsible coat hangers, cubical potatoes, edible gramophone records, and of course, the infamous flying car. This is a classic story with a real sense of whimsy, and one that celebrates imagination, eccentricity and thinking outside the box.

George’s Marvellous Medicine

Roald Dahl

Perhaps more of an alchemist, but an inventor nonetheless, George Kranky has a brilliant mind. Suspecting that his cantankerous old grandma might be a witch, and to punish her for being such a meany, George decides to invent a new concoction to replace her usual medicine. I still love re-reading the chapter in which Dahl describes the ingredients that George chooses for his magic brew — golden gloss hair shampoo, brown paint, toothpaste, chilli sauce and floor polish to name but a few! Bubbling with Dahl’s trademark humour and sense of anarchy, this book definitely warrants the warning to readers that comes with it — “Do not try to make George's Marvellous Medicine yourselves at home. It could be dangerous."

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Brian Selznick

This beautiful book is nearly an invention in itself, with the author describing it as “not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things". It focuses around the story of Hugo, a young orphan with a talent for working with contraptions. With clockwork machines, mechanical toys and wind-up automatons gracing this book’s pages in both words and pictures, this award-winning story is a wonder for both the eyes and ears.

The Imagination Box

Martyn Ford

This fast-paced adventure revolves around a fantastical invention, The Imagination Box, which gives users the power to create anything they desire. When the contraption falls into the hands of lonely only-child, Tim, he thinks that all his birthdays have come at once, until inventor Professor Eisenstone is kidnapped...

This book is jam-packed with action, adventure and danger, as well as plenty of humour in the form of forthright finger-monkey sidekick, Phil! I love this book as it cleverly explores both the wonders and perils of technological advancement.

Many thanks to Holly Rivers for compiling this guest booklist for us. We couldn't leave it there without adding Holly's own new book Demelza and the Spectre Detectors, which features a young inventor and her weird and wonderful contraptions.

Demelza and the Spectre Detectors

Holly Rivers

Demelza loves science - she loves it so much that she's been known to stay up late to work on her peculiar inventions! But Demelza discovers she has inherited a distinctly un-scientific set of skills: Spectre Detecting. Like her grandmother, she can summon the ghosts of the dead. But when Grandma is kidnapped by a mysterious villain, she knows Spectre Detecting has something to do with it. Only Demelza and her pasty best friend, Percy, can solve the deadly mystery .

 

Read our full review on the blog.

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore William Joyce In a reversal of the typical order, the wonderful story of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore began life as a film, graced our iPad screens as an inspiring Book App, and then the book form emerged. Morris Lessmore is a character who “loved words”. However, when his orderly life is “scattered” by a terrible storm he finds himself wondering aimlessly. A lady “being pulled along by a festive squadron of flying books” marks the beginning of the magic of books being poured into this story. She sends Morris her favourite book, which in turn leads him to a magnificent old building filled with books yearning for attention… and so Morris’s journey and love of books begins. I adore how the books are treated as having true personalities, just like the books in Mabel’s bedroom! Does anyone else consider this when they are organising their shelves - that there are certain books that shouldn’t be shelved together? Urm, just me then?!?! Buy Online Finding Serendipity Angelica Banks Finding Serendipity is a fantastic adventure novel brimming with imagination, a love of books, a respect for words and a big dash of magic. Tuesday McGillycuddy’s (how great is that name?!) mum is the author of a beloved children’s series. She is busy working ALL hours to complete the latest in the series when she suddenly disappears… into her own book! Tuesday must get herself into the world too, and rescue her mum, leading to a story full of pirates and adventures, sailing ships and oodles of magic. I loved it, it really made me wonder what type of book I’d love to find myself in the middle of! Buy Online The Wrong Book Nick Bland Nick Bland is a bit of a genius when it comes to creating funny picture books, and this one is no exception. His protagonist, Nicholas Ickle (another great character name, don’t you think?), wants to tell his own story… but then has to contend with a variety of rude interruptions every single time! Elephants, monsters, pirate, queens – I adore the chaotic nature of it and Nicholas’s increasing frusTop Five Books featuring inventors and inventions - Holly Rivers My debut mystery-adventure, Demelza and the Spectre Detectors, focuses on a young inventor named Demelza, who loves nothing more than spending time in her attic bedroom creating weird and wonderful contraptions. As a child, I too was forever making, drawing and imagining — in fact, some of the gadgets in the book are actually things I attempted to make when I was a little girl. So put down your soldering iron and screwdrivers and take a look at my top 5 books featuring inventors and inventions. ​ A Series of Unfortunate Events Lemony Snicket As well as its twisted plots, dark humour, and oddball characters, this series contains one of my favourite inventors in literature — Violet Baudelaire. With a mind filled with pulleys, levers and gears, Violet often uses her gadgets to save her and her siblings from danger, as they attempt to escape the clutches of the evil Count Olaf. I adore the way Snicket describes Violet quickly tying back her hair back with a ribbon every time that inspiration strikes, as if to rid herself of any trivial distractions. She’s a wonderful S.T.E.A.M-girl character with plenty of spark in every sense. Buy Online Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Ian Fleming I’ve adored the character of outlandish inventor Caractacus Pott (or ‘Commander Crackpott’ as he’s known by his neighbours) ever since childhood, and this wonderful book has inspired my own writing no end. Fleming’s descriptions of Pott’s fantastical inventions fizz with energy — there’s collapsible coat hangers, cubical potatoes, edible gramophone records, and of course, the infamous flying car. This is a classic story with a real sense of whimsy, and one that celebrates imagination, eccentricity and thinking outside the box. Buy Online George’s Marvellous Medicine Roald Dahl Perhaps more of an alchemist, but an inventor nonetheless, George Kranky has a brilliant mind. Suspecting that his cantankerous old grandma might be a witch, and to punish her for being such a meany, George decides to invent a new concoction to replace her usual medicine. I still love re-reading the chapter in which Dahl describes the ingredients that George chooses for his magic brew — golden gloss hair shampoo, brown paint, toothpaste, chilli sauce and floor polish to name but a few! Bubbling with Dahl’s trademark humour and sense of anarchy, this book definitely warrants the warning to readers that comes with it — “Do not try to make George's Marvellous Medicine yourselves at home. It could be dangerous." Buy Online The Invention of Hugo Cabret Brian Selznick This beautiful book is nearly an invention in itself, with the author describing it as “not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things". It focuses around the story of Hugo, a young orphan with a talent for working with contraptions. With clockwork machines, mechanical toys and wind-up automatons gracing this book’s pages in both words and pictures, this award-winning story is a wonder for both the eyes and ears. Buy Online The Imagination Box Martyn Ford This fast-paced adventure revolves around a fantastical invention, The Imagination Box, which gives users the power to create anything they desire. When the contraption falls into the hands of lonely only-child, Tim, he thinks that all his birthdays have come at once, until inventor Professor Eisenstone is kidnapped... This book is jam-packed with action, adventure and danger, as well as plenty of humour in the form of forthright finger-monkey sidekick, Phil! I love this book as it cleverly explores both the wonders and perils of technological advancement. Buy Online Many thanks to Holly Rivers for compiling this guest booklist for us. We couldn't leave it there without adding Holly's own new book Demelza and the Spectre Detectors, which features a young inventor and her weird and wonderful contraptions. Demelza and the Spectre Detectors Holly Rivers Demelza loves science - she loves it so much that she's been known to stay up late to work on her peculiar inventions! But Demelza discovers she has inherited a distinctly un-scientific set of skills: Spectre Detecting. Like her grandmother, she can summon the ghosts of the dead. But when Grandma is kidnapped by a mysterious villain, she knows Spectre Detecting has something to do with it. Only Demelza and her pasty best friend, Percy, can solve the deadly mystery . Read our full review on the blog.trations! Buy Online Are You Sitting Comfortably? Leigh Hodgkinson There’s nothing quite like snuggling up with a delicious new book… but you’ve got to be sitting comfortably, right? This is book takes a funny look at just that dilemma… finding a reading spot that’s simply perfect. Buy Online Luna Loves Library Day Joseph Coelho & Fiona Lumbers Libraries, Dads, books and a huge love of reading and stories. There was no doubt in mind my that this one was going to land proudly on this list. A gorgeous book and a lovely celebration, with a bonus rhyming story in the middle. Perfect! Buy Online Psst: can I sneak in a couple of extra titles… ? The New LiBEARian by Alison Donald & Alex Willmore (available here),  Little Red Reading Hood by Lucy Rowland & Ben Mantle (available here) AND Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James (available here). Thank you! So now you can see my book obsession, but when I tell you my debut picture book, with Sharon Davey, is called I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End. I can hand on heart promise you that it does have a happy ending! I promise!

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