STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Rocket Shoes Fiction Inspires STEAM Activities

Generally we feature nonfiction books here at STEM Friday, but that doesn’t mean a good fiction picture book can’t be used to promote STEM.

Take Rocket Shoes by Sharon Skinner and illustrated by Ward Jenkins.

José works hard to buy a pair of special rocket shoes. They are a blast. His neighbor thinks they are too dangerous, however, and talks the mayor into banning them. When the same neighbor gets into trouble during a snow storm, will José break the rules and put on his shoes to save the day?

This book has it all. It features diverse characters, text full of action verbs and catchy rhymes, just the right touch of humor, plus readers learn about conflict resolution in a lighthearted way (not at all pedantic). What more could you ask for?

How about plenty of potential to tie-in STEAM activities?  Check out Wrapped in Foil blog for suggestions for just a few of the many STEAM activities that could be inspired by the book. It is sure to fire up a child’s imagination.

Rocket Shoes is such a fun book that it will fly off the bookshelf. Share a copy with a young reader today!


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Mr. Ferris and His Wheel


Mr. Ferris and his Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, Illustrated by Gilbert Ford (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

Though written in a fully illustrated, engaging and narrative nonfiction style,  Mr. Ferris and his Wheel is nevertheless, a well-sourced and researched picture book for older readers.

The story of the 1863, Chicago World’s Fair debut of the world’s first Ferris wheel (or Monster Wheel, as Mr. Ferris originally named it),  is told in a flowing and entertaining style,

     George arrived in Chicago and made his case to the construction chief of the fair.

     The chief stared at George’s drawings.  No one had ever created a fair attraction that huge and complicated.  The chief told George that his structure was “so flimsy it would collapse.”

     George had heard enough.  He rolled up his drawings and said, “You are an architect, sir. I am an engineer.”

     George knew something the chief did not.  His invention would be delicate-looking and strong.  It would be both stronger and lighter than the Eiffel Tower because it would be built with an amazing new metal—steel.


it contains sidebars that impart more technical information that might otherwise interrupt the flow of the story,

George was a steel expert, and his structure would be made of a steel alloy.  Alloys combine a super-strong mix of a hard metal with two or more chemical elements.

George Ferris’ determination is a story in itself, but it is the engineering genius of his wheel that steals the show.  A “must-have” for any school or public library.

Some facts about the original “Ferris” wheel:

  • 834′ in circumference
  • 265′ above the ground
  • 3,000 electric lightbulbs (this itself was a marvel in 1893!)
  • forty velvet seats per car

Ferris wheel at the Chicago World’s Fair c1893. Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

See all of my reviews at Shelf-employed.

STEM Friday

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