Made by Maxine: A Picture Book to Inspire Young Makers #STEAM

Have you heard the news? Today is National STEAM Day (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math), and we've been having fun exploring all kinds of hands-on activities to celebrate. From mixing dyed liquids to make different colors, to building tall stacks of blocks, to architectural creations using Magformers, there are plenty of great ways to help young children participate in STEAM activities that are both educational and fun. Since we also love to read, I couldn't forget to include some of our favorite themed books to commemorate the celebration.

The latest addition to our personal library is a precious picture book called Made by Maxine, and it's the perfect story for today, since it's inspired by the maker movement. For those who may not already be familiar with the maker movement, it's a social movement that inspires and motivates people to invent and create through tinkering and experimentation. In Made by Maxine, a young girl named Maxine is quite the little inventor. She loves to find random things around the house that are not in use, so she can tinker around, and ultimately repurpose them to create something new and functional. 

One day, Maxine is walking past the pet store and sees a goldfish named Milton in the window. It is love at first sight and she knows that he will be her forever friend. When she first gets Milton home, she realizes that he deserves way better than the tiny fish bowl he's currently swimming in, so she decides to create the ultimate tank for him. This leads to more and more intricate projects for her friend, including a nifty automatic fish feeding system, which she builds from parts found lying around in the garage. 

At school, Maxine's teacher announces that the entire class will be having a pet parade. All of the students will be allowed to bring in their pet to march in the parade, and those who don't have pets can borrow one of the classroom pets for the event. All of the students are excited and start thinking about their own pets marching in the parade. When Maxine mentions bringing Milton, some of the other students laugh and scoff at the idea, "A goldfish can't march. He doesn't have feet!"

Maxine is not dissuaded the least bit by this, because she is determined and lives by the motto, "If I can dream it, I can make it!" Of course getting a goldfish to march in the school parade is not going to be as easy as she thinks, and Maxine soon realizes that, after some of her initial plans don't seem to work out so well. While the classroom hamster is cute, she wants to march with her own pet in the parade. Through trial and error, she strives on her mission to get Milton in that parade. Will she make it happen? I will leave the rest for you to find out, because too many spoilers are never fun.

"If I can dream it, I can make it!"

One neat feature in the book that I felt was worth noting, is the fun artwork throughout. With the turn of each page, there are plenty of fine details, sometimes they're hidden in the background and other times they're shown right in the forefront. After we had initially read the story, we went back just to look at all of the illustrations. It was fun to pick out certain details, including some of Maxine's previous inventions and posters of both Albert Einstein and Marie Curie on her bedroom wall. My favorite was a small note in her room that read, "Think like a proton. Always Positive."

"Think like a proton. Always Positive." 


Ruth Spiro is the author of the Baby Loves Science series, published by Charlesbridge. The first two titles are Baby Loves Quarks and Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering, which Amazon editors named one of the "Best Children's Books of the Year" for ages 0-2. Two new books in this series, Baby Loves Thermodynamics and Baby Loves Quantum Physics, are forthcoming in 2017.Ruth’s debut picture book, Lester Fizz, Bubble-Gum Artist, won awards from Writer’s Digest and Willamette Writers, and was a Bank Street College of Education Best Book. Her writing has appeared in FamilyFun, CHILD, and The Writer, and also in popular anthologies, notably The Right Words at the Right Time, edited by Marlo Thomas, and several Chicken Soup for the Soul titles. A frequent speaker at schools and conferences, Ruth’s previous appearances include the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Early Childhood STEM Conference, Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Book Fair, Millennium Park Family Fun Festival, Illinois Young Authors Conference, Illinois Art Education Association and the Virginia Festival of the Book. She lives in Chicago

Honestly, we never really need a reason to partake in STEAM activities. There's always a new learning experience to be had in our home. Of course, it's still kind of nice to pick a day out of the year to officially celebrate. I recommend plenty of hands-on activities to help expand critical thinking and discovery. Be sure to also include several books relating to science, technology, engineering, art and math. We like to read different types of books, some are about specific related topics, while others are biographies of scientists, famous artists and mathematicians. Including some fun, fictional stories like Made by Maxine are also important, and for good reason, too. As we see with the main character in this book, she demonstrates what it means to think outside the box and practice perseverance. This is such a heartwarming story that will encourage and inspire young makers to do the same.