Author and Illustrator: Emily Arnold McCully
About this Book
There are several books about Margaret Knight but this is my favorite, obviously since I'm sharing this one! The book begins when Mattie is young and shows how she has a talent for design and invention. She had inherited her fathers tool box and used it to build her ideas. A great aspect of this story is that Mattie was not too concerned about being different from other girls of her time, and when she was older she was not afraid to fight for what was rightfully hers. All in a time when girls didn't do any of these things! Lots of good life examples in this book along with great art and inspiration for your possible budding inventor!
Type of Illustration
Pen and ink and watercolor. After reading the book go back through and discuss the beautiful art. Notice the sky and grass on the page where the children are flying kites. Do you have a favorite picture? I like the one where Mattie and Sadie are doing the happy dance amongst the paper bags! I also really like the watercolor stripes and plaid watercolor painted dresses they wear, especially the red one Mattie wears to court.
Along the bottom of some pages there are drawings of Mattie's inventions. Choose your favorite invention and make a drawing of it, or come up with your own invention and make a drawing of that. Food for thought when thinking up an invention: Good inventions solve a problem or make doing something easier.
Another option is to paint a landscape similar to the kite flying illustration using watercolors.
Mattie was born in 1838. She was granted her patent for the bag machine on July 11, 1871. They can make a card for both of these dates or just one. It's the kiddo's time line so let them decide.
Active Game or Activity
Try to have on hand a flat type paper bag and a regular flat bottomed bag. If you don't have a flat one you can take two pieces of plain paper and glue or tape the edges to make one. When you're done reading the book you can take both types of bags out and share what a big difference there is. Can you put cans of food in the flat bag? Which bag will hold more groceries?
You can also take a flat bottomed paper bag and gently open it up into a flat piece of paper. Using a butter knife if needed so as not to tear the paper. After you have it opened up you'll see that its simply a rectangle with 4 small slits cut along the bottom edge. Once you have it opened up let the children see if they can shape it back into it's original form. Once they have it figured out they can use a glue stick or tape to put it back into it's standing position.
Go fly a kite if you like!
We are calling this game Bag Ball. You will need 3 paper bags, preferably lunch bag size, a can of food or something to weight each bag down and 3 small rubber balls, the type from a bubble gum machine or jax game. Place your bags at the end of a hallway or in an area where the balls can be rolled into the bags. You can stagger the bags so some are closer and lay them on their side with the can of food in the bottom of the bag, also on it's side. Think skee ball at the arcade! At first I thought we might have to tape the bottom edge of the paper bag to the floor but it worked fine without. How far away the kids stand can depend on their age. You can play where each ball in a bag is 1 point or you can write 5,10 and 15 points on the bags and integrate a math lesson. Use a white board or paper to keep track when a score is made and have the child add their points up after each turn. You can make the point that this game could not be played unless the bags have a flat bottom!
Mattie was born in York, Maine and then moved to Manchester, New Hampshire with her family where she had to quit school at 12 to go to work. After the Civil War Mattie moved to Springfield, Massachusetts to work. She then had to travel to Boston, Massachusetts to fight for her patent. All of these can be marked on their map. They can draw a small picture, put a sticker or label each spot however they like. If your map doesn't show the smaller towns you can check the internet to see where they are, or especially for younger kids, they can just put the mark anywhere on the state. But don't forget we very likely will have more books taking place in this state... one I know of for sure coming up, so perhaps try to leave some room.
Search and Find
Mattie wearing a red bow tie
A purple hat
A really tall ladder
A sail boat
Candle sticks on a mantle
Two sleds going downhill
Mattie's Tool Box
A basket hanging on the wall
A police officer wearing blue
Where did Mattie get her toolbox from? Inherited from her father
What did Mattie make for her mother? A foot warmer
How did Mattie first earn money using her designs? sleds
How much did she earn? .25
How many pictures of Mattie's notebook can you find in the book? (I see 9)
How many hours a day did Mattie's family have to work in the factory? 13
When Mattie wandered into the machine shop in Manchester, what were they building? A locomotive
How old was Mattie when she had to stop going to school and go to work? 12
When Rebecca was injured Mattie went to a “vigil.” Do you know what that means? In those days people would gather to pray for someone who's been hurt and they called that a vigil.
Did every mill in Manchester use Mattie's invention to keep their workers safe? Yes!
Was it Mattie's idea to make a flat bottomed bag? No. But she figured out how to make a machine that would manufacture them.
Were most girls like Mattie back in those days? No.
How many years did it take Mattie to design the bag machine? 2
Do we still use paper bags made like Mattie's bag machine makes? Yeppers!
Make sure to read the authors note at the end of the book. Margaret Knight was known as the female Edison!
Quote from Margaret E. Knight: “It is only following out nature. As a child, I never cared for things that girls usually do... My friends were horrified. I was called a tomboy; but that made very little impression on me. I sighed sometimes, because I was not like other girls; but wisely concluded that I couldn't help it, and sought further consolation from my tools... I'm only sorry I couldn't have had as good a chance as a boy, and have been put to my trade regularly.”
There may be some other books at your library about Margaret E. Knight.
Research the Industrial Revolution that took place when Mattie was growing up.
Short clip and article from the History Chanel on the Industrial Revolution that shows how textile factories like the one Mattie worked in got started. I haven't seen this whole show but it looks good!
Other inventors of the Industrial Revolution: http://americanhistory.about.com/od/industrialrev/tp/inventors.htm
Write a paper comparing the differences living in Mattie's day and now. How were things different and how are they the same?
Notice the title of the book says... an Inventor. I found out recently that my husband didn't know the “a, an rule.” I actually don't remember ever learning this in school myself but I do remember learning it along with my older son when he learned it in his grammar, about 9 years ago. :-) When I noticed the 'an' in the title I thought I'd share this because it's actually kind of a fun and easy rule. It's something most of us learned as we learned to speak. We say an apple but we say a car. We say a house but we say an opportunity. Perhaps the kids could play “Stump Dad” and see if he knows the rule!
Here's a website with a clear explanation. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/591/01/
Science and technology came of age through the Industrial Revolution that Marvelous Mattie was part of. Looking at the list of inventors in the above section really shows that the advances during this time were profound.
This is a very “schooly” document with lesson plans I found. I didn't read through all of it but there could be some good stuff in there.
Mattie was born in 1838 and was granted her bag machine patent in 1871. How old was she when she got the patent?
How about a mini flat bottom paper bag for your treasure box? I'll post some pictures and instructions at the very bottom of this post.
Some of Mattie's inventions:
Short bio: http://pvhn2.wordpress.com/1800-2/margaret-e-knight/
Famous Women Inventors: http://www.women-inventors.com/Margaret-Knight.asp
Mini Bag Instructions
If you have really young ones, or don't have time for the kids to make this, why not make one of these as a surprise to give them after reading the book? It only takes a minute and it makes a good little treasure!
Start with a piece of paper cut 4.5 inches by 2 inches. Ignore the slits cut in the edge... you'll do that in a minute.