National Non Fiction November is in full swing (you can see the books I’ve so far recommended on Twitter, and find out more using #NNFN) and so today I bring you a wacky and glorious celebration of human ingenuity and wild imagination: Impossible Inventions: Ideas that Shouldn’t Work by Małgorzata Mycielska, illustrated by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski (@hipopotam) and translated by Agnes Monod-Gayraud.
“There’s no rule about who can or can’t be an inventor. It takes imagination, commitment and courage to push the limits of possibility. You never know when an idea will grow into something amazing and incredibly useful.”
Starting out straight away with such a positive attitude Mycielska sets the tone for an eye-opening journey encouraging readers to be open to ideas and not to dismiss something simply because it seems a little eccentric, or challenging to achieve. Over the course of the following 122 pages nearly thirty inventions, ancient and modern, from across the globe are highlighted in this mouthwatering smorgasbord of ideas.
Above all, this exciting, funny and (at times) mind-boggling book demonstrates how human imagination knows no limits. From flying cars and using bubbles to transmit messages via sweet sorters for fussy eaters to giant gerbil wheel carriages for emperors (!) Mycielska gives a sense that anything is possible and that dreaming big and boldly should never be scoffed at; when first revealed, many of Leonardo da Vinci’s ideas were considered crazy, and yet today he is considered a genius. With this in mind, Impossible Inventions doesn’t only contain inventions which have been shown to work, it also features many which haven’t (yet) been put into practice. But who knows? Maybe one day, they will become a reality.
Mycielska’s ideas buffet is illustrated in befitting style by the Polish pair, Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński, perhaps most famous for their bestselling book Maps. The quirky, humorous and fresh illustrations have a comic-strip feel to them with their use of strong black lines and use of block colouring. Combining detail with clarity, to create unfussy images full of character and off-beat charm, the Mizielińskis are non-fiction illustrators par-exellence. If you don’t already know their D.E.S.I.G.N and H.O.U.S.E books (here’s our review of the latter), both of which are similar to Impossible Inventions in that they offer up a tantalising platter of ideas, showcasing creativity and innovation, I strongly urge you to track them down.
Impossible Inventions is a book which will feed enthusiasm, foster wonder, encourage curiosity and, I’m pretty confident, sow seeds in the minds of inventors of the future. A truly special book.
Ideas for activities to go alongside sharing this book:
If you want to find out a bit about the translator’s approach to her work, you might enjoy the second half of this video interview.
Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by its publisher, Gecko Press.