What's the Big Idea?

Inventions That Changed Life on Earth Forever


Beginning with inventions from long, long ago (the needle, the wheel, the water pump) moving to those from long ago (the printing press, steel, the telegraph) and ending with innovations from not so long ago (the car, the TV, mp3s), What’s the Big Idea? treats readers to an in-depth, but lighthearted look at 32 of our most important inventions. Each invention profile lists its highlights — who invented it, when, and where — and asks and answers the question “Why this invention and why now?” Author Helaine Becker pays close attention to what was going on in the world at the time of each invention — showing the timeliness of each invention and putting it in context for the reader. Fun tidbits of information are worked seamlessly and liberally into the bites of historical information to keep kids entertained and engaged. Five Big Thinkers are also profiled alongside their major inventions. Readers will learn about some of the oddities and follies of Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Faraday, Alexander Graham Bell, and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Plus, major inventions under a single theme, such as the schoolroom, the battlefield, and the doctor’s office are explored in two-page illustrations. Becker closes the book by asking readers “What’s next in the exciting world of innovation?” Inspired kids may very well reach for their thinking caps to find out.


  • Short-listed, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Information Book Award 2010
  • Commended, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Best Books for Kids and Teens Selection 2010
  • Commended, Ontario Library Association, Top 10 Canadian Children's Books, Non-fiction Category, Best Bets List 2009
  • Commended, Ontario Library Association, Silver Birch Award 2011
  • Commended, Canadian Toy Testing Council, Top 10 Great Books 2011


...the eye-popping cover, creative design, and engaging content should make it a popular choice for young would-be inventors.

- Quill & Quire

The illustrations are humorous and informative and they keep the reader entertained while they learn…What’s the Big Idea? is a great resource for the classroom and at home - for the inquisitive child, teacher and parent!

- Resource Links

Whether children are looking for specific information or browsing, they will find a miscellany of knowledge and fascinating facts presented in a chatty tone with readable dialogues, catchy sidebars and ‘groaner’ puns…a valuable addition for all libraries.

- Canadian Children’s Book News

Who knows — with inspiration from this book, students may be motivated to become the creators of the next big idea and line themselves up with the likes of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs.

- Professionally Speaking

Written in a breezy style with lots of clever illustrations, sidebars, spinoff segments and mini-fact sections and mini-fact sections, this is a book which will repay the young reader a lot of browsing and probably send him or her off to check out some of the Internet references mentioned.

- The Whitehorse Star

...[a] lively, colorful book. ..I can imagine pairs of students really enjoying reading and discussing this book together.

- Canadian Teacher