Lonnie’s rocket invention drew a crowd of schoolmates to watch on the playground. His fuel creation caused his mother to send him outside when it caught fire in the kitchen! Whoops! At least, she didn’t make him quit experimenting.
The team of Chris Barton and Don Tate missed the memo that nonfiction is dry and boring. Together again after The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, they tell the story of Lonnie Johnson in their new book Whoosh, which I read in an advance reading copy furnished by Net Galley. They use words and illustrations woven seamlessly together to add child-appealing humor without compromising the struggles Lonnie faced to fulfill his dreams. A crucial highlight in the book is the way Lonnie Johnson proves wrong the prediction of the exam that he is unlikely to make a good engineer.
The Barton/Tate Team recounts Lonnie’s many recognized achievements in the technical world, including work with NASA scientists. Children who've paid attention to the cover will enjoy the book even before they get to what they’ve been waiting for – the fun comes when Whoops! becomes Whoosh! in the making of the extraordinary water gun that they recognize and may have played with. Then Engineer Lonnie must become Promoter Lonnie or the product will never get into the market and the hands of children.
A bonus for teachers is the author’s note with the opportunity to discuss with students the importance of primary sources as Chris tells about talking to Lonnie Johnson and others who had firsthand knowledge of the story.
This is a book for any child or child-at-heart who loves to see how discoveries are made, to have a good laugh, or to see success follow failure.
Lest you question my praise of this book to be released May 3, since both Chris Barton and Don Tate are friends, Kirkus also gave it a starred review.