Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
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Fun hands-on projects, inspiration for different thinkers.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Calling All Minds is bursting with things to learn. How-to projects, mini-bios of famous and not so famous inventors, short sections on everything from accidental discoveries (penicillin and Velcro), and the history of glue to kids who applied for and received patents (the youngest was 5-year-old Sam Houghton, who invented the Sweeping Device with Two Heads).

Positive Messages

Even if your brain works a little differently from other kids' in your class, there's no limit to the kind of contributions you can make in the world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Grandin's willingness to be open about her life on the autism spectrum has inspired millions and is sure to do the same for readers. 

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor is by Temple Grandin, a world-renowned scientist and inventor who is also one of the best-known adults on the autism spectrum. The book has more than 20 hands-on projects, from making a Jumping Jack Puppet and toy sailboat to kites and paper planes. Along with the projects are short pieces and bios of the scientists and inventors who created them, as well as Grandin's own memories of working on these same projects as a kid. This is far more than a book of things to do. Grandin's candid memories of growing up as a child who never quite fit in but went onto lead an extraordinary life will be inspiring to any young reader who is (in Grandin’s words), "a different kind of thinker."

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What's the story?

CALLING ALL MINDS is divided into five chapters: "Things Made of Paper," "Levers and Pulleys," "Things Made of Wood," "Things That Fly," and "Optical Illusions." There are detailed step-by-step instructions (with diagrams) for each of the more than 20 projects that range from Handmade Paper, a Puppet Theater with Curtain and a Violin Plant Stand, to a Bird Kite, a Parachute (of the tiny variety), and even a Water Bomb. Each chapter has lively short bios of inventors and the history behind inventions from glue to rubber tires, and even why letters on a keyboard are in such a random order. In the brief Introduction, Grandin writes about her childhood as a "quirky kid" who was teased at school for her lack of social skills and the family who always encouraged her to work with her hands and and explore how things worked.

Is it any good?

Fun projects that are certain to inspire kids to put down their phones, pick up scissors, glue, milk cartons, and plywood and actually make things with their own hands. Calling All Minds has a two-fold purpose -- to motivate and encourage -- and strongly delivers on both. Grandin's joy in being able to share these favorite projects from her childhood should make them irresistible to readers. By sharing her personal story, she shows all those kids who don't quite fit the mold at school that being a "different kind of thinker" can mean a whole world of exciting possibilities can open for them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the challenge that Temple Grandin gives readers of Calling All Minds: Put down your phones and make something! Do you agree that making something with your hands can be a life-changing experience?

  • Is there something you’re interested in that makes you a little different from other kids at school? Why do you think so many kids who were labeled as "different" growing up go onto do extraordinary things?

  • What would you invent to make your family's life easier or better?

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