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  • Inventions That Could Have Changed the World … But Didn’t by Joe Rhatigan
  • Elizabeth Bush
Rhatigan, Joe Inventions That Could Have Changed the World … But Didn’t; illus. by Anthony Owsley. Imagine/Charlesbridge, 2015 80p ISBN 978-1-62354-024-1 $14.95     R Gr. 3-6

“For every amazing invention, there are thousands that are never produced, arrive too soon or too late to be of any use, or simply don’t work.” In this tidy volume examining just such inventions, Rhatigan organizes snippets of information into four main chapters on transportation, efficiency, recreation, and baby and pet care—an odd assortment of themes, certainly, but useful in providing structure for this joyride through the world of fascinating failures. Here kids learn about important inventors’ brainchildren that never became commercially viable—from Thomas Edison’s concrete houses (cheap materials, but huge overhead for contractors), to Buckminster Fuller’s easy-to-park, eleven-seater, three-wheeled Dymaxion car (a prototype crashed at the World’s Fair. Oops). Rhatigan also discusses the short-lived—cages that attached to the outer walls of apartment buildings to allow babies to get sunshine; a gas-powered pogo stick (even Grandpa can handle it in the commercials); Gerber’s 1974 marketing of adult baby food (No. Just, no). And then there are the total duds, such as Franz Reichelt’s early version of a wingsuit, in which he plummeted to his death off the Eiffel Tower. Short entries are accompanied by technical drawings from patent applications and/or cartoonstyled reconstructions of the inventions. Rhatigan includes an occasional link to a website or video for selected topics, but enterprising kids will quickly figure out that there’s a lot more on the web than the author suggests, and just about any entry will lead to online amusement. A list of resources concentrates on websites; subject and inventor indexes are also included.



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