Many children and adults will know the Polish husband-and-wife team Daniel and Aleksandra Mizielinski from their bestselling nonfiction title Maps (2013), an illustrated feast for the eyes that introduces readers to people, places and animals from around the world. Known for their fun, imaginative style, the pair create books that aim to inspire. Impossible Inventions: Ideas That Shouldn’t Work, a collaboration with author Małgorzata Mycielska, is the most recent of these. The message of the book is simple: anyone can be an inventor. All you need is creativity, passion and dedication. The book features innovations old and new, ranging from an ancient mechanism that automatically opens doors using warm air and water, to the very recent invention of 3D printing that can be used on the moon. Some inventions are simply impossible, such as the balloon boat, designed to work with vacuum-sealed balloons made of copper, while some have withstood the test of time and have been improved upon, like the land yacht that was first invented in the 1600s and is still around today in a lighter, sleeker form. And to make extra sure that readers have fun along the way, other inventions are just plain silly. These include the flatulence deodoriser, a small pad designed to absorb unpleasant odours, which was actually patented in the US in 2001; and the ‘Mechanical Turk’, a robotic chess master that even managed to beat Napoleon back in the eighteenth century (though there was a human chess master hiding in the machinery all along).
In addition to explaining the patent process and providing detailed diagrams, the twenty-eight patented inventions featured in the book offer a fascinating and unusual perspective on Western history and highlight the amazing capacity of the human mind. If you know any young inventors who are constantly tinkering with odds and ends and dreaming up new gadgets, this is the book for them. You can start reading from any point, then return to your favourite inventions again and again. Now we just need companion volumes exploring inventions from Africa, Asia and South America!
Reviewed by Mia Spangenberg
IMPOSSIBLE INVENTIONS: IDEAS THAT SHOULDN’T WORK
by Małgorzata Mycielska, with illustrations by Daniel and Aleksandra Mizielinski
Translated by Agnes Monod-Gayraud
Published by Gecko Press (2017)
September 2021 #RivetingReviews titles are available to buy from bookshop.org.
Mia Spangenberg is a translator working from Finnish and German into English. Her work has been published in Finland and the UK, and in journals such as LitHub and Asymptote. She is also a regular contributor to the WorldKidLit blog. She has a Ph.D. in Scandinavian studies from the University of Washington, Seattle, where she resides with her family. You can find her on her website here.