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What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  335 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball legend and the NBA's alltime leading scorer, champions a lineup
of little-known African-American inventors in this lively, kid-friendly book.

Did you know that James West invented the microphone in your cell phone? That Fred Jones invented the refrigerated truck that makes supermarkets possible? Or that Dr. Percy Julian synthesized cortisone f
Hardcover, 44 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Candlewick Press (MA)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  335 ratings  ·  79 reviews

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Mariah Roze
Feb 15, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a great book that taught you about African American Inventors. However, throughout the book there was a realistic fiction story going on so younger kids could read this book and be interested. The problem with that though is this book is way too hard to read and comprehend when they talk about the inventors. This book wouldn't appeal to many people, because the story inside it is for a 2nd or 3rd grader but the information written about the inventors is for a 5th grader or higher. ...more
Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a book that I just acquired for my school library and I wasn’t sure how to catalog it. Was it fiction or biography? So I read it and decided that even though it technically is a fictional story, I think it would be best used in the history section.
It is the story of Ella and Herbie, a brother/sister twin set that has just moved to an older house that needs a little work. There they met Mr. Mital who was hired to be the handy man to fix up the house. Mr. Mital shares with Ella and Herbie
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
I have mixed feelings on this one. The positive - It provides a ton of great facts and information - which is good. But it almost seems that the publisher/editor/author doesn't know what direction or what audience they are trying to reach. The format is a large-size picture book with flaps (would be younger audience in my opinion). Text for facts about inventors is for older students. The story almost has a voice for younger readers but the reading level and amount of text would not be appropria ...more
Jul 24, 2013 rated it liked it
This book can't decide what it wants to be, and it suffers from the indecision. Is it fiction or nonfiction? How readers answer that question will determine their satisfaction with Jabbar's latest. I found the information fascinating. We know far too little about the contribution black scientists and innovators (I really liked the authors' use of that term to point out that most inventions were not invented by any one person but developed as a series of innovations and improvements upon the work ...more
"There's more to our history than slavery, jazz, sports, and civil rights marches." Kudo's to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for co-authoring this journey through time, "magically" educating the reader of inventions by African-Americans. Although the supporting story of two children stumbling upon the history of African-American inventors with the help of a handyman lacks richness, the valuable content of the book, as well as the intriguing ending, is enough to earn this book's rightful place on a child's ...more
I really appreciate this collection of biographies about African American inventors and scientists. The layout of the book differs from the norm in that the clues about the contributions of these scientists are tucked into a fictional story with the actual biographical information available on sidebars that usually fold out. Sources are listed in the back. In an age when athletes seem to be every child's benchmark of success, this book is also notable because it is coauthored by Kareem Abdul-Jab ...more
Jun 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Content Area Crossover:
This book would be an excellent tool in a content crossover to social studies. I had never heard of these amazing African American inventors in all my years of schooling. I grew increasingly upset with that fact as I read this book. It is important for all kids to learn about successful people who aren’t just white males. From my observations and experience, there is a glaring exclusion of this information from textbooks that I can only interpret as racial bias. This book
Arretta Johnson
"Can anyone tell me who invented the "super soaker", the "illusion transmitter", the "color graphics adapter", a bread making machine, and who patented a method that is still used today of preserving meats?" After no one will likely tell me the correct answers: "Did you know that these five inventors are all African-Americans?" "There are many interesting and very useful inventions that happened to be created by African Americans and we just don't hear about them on the news or in our textbooks! ...more
Tanya Patrice
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, excellent, excellent! I get 99% of my books from the library, but this I went out and bought after reading it. It is an illustrated book and will appeal to both kids and adults - it's not too long so kids will get bored, yet it's still informative.

The story starts out with a family moving to a house which is quite old and in need of repair. A handyman that the parents met at church shows up to help, and the kids have to pitch in too - but they aren't too thrilled with their new house.
Melanie Wyatt
Jun 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Grades 4-7
Shelves: reference-shelf
Abdul-Jabbar, K., & Obstfeld, R. (2012). What color is my world?: The lost history of African American inventors. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Reviewed by: Melanie Wyatt
Category: Biography
ISBN: 0763645648
Price: $10.79

Description: The book explores inventions from several lesser-known African-American inventors. Information is provided about the author and illustrators.
Content/scope: The purpose of the book, content and scope are geared towards upper elementary and middle school students. Fa
Christina Getrost
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
A nice look at African-American inventors, using a fictional framework-- 13 year old twin brother and sister are having to help clean up their new house, and as they work with a handyman he tells them about various pioneering African-American scientists whose inventions impact their everyday lives. The narrative weaves together inventions such as the gamma electric cell, induction telegraph, light bulbs, microphones and bread machines and even the super soaker water gun. A nicely designed book, ...more
Mar 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: multicultural
Somewhat engaging story which incorporates lots of facts and information about African American "innovators"- no one really invents anything alone, all scientists build off of and improve upon the creations of others. The base story is told by 2 young children, and many of the pages incorporate historical facts into that narrative or the half-page fold-outs surrounding it. However every 3-4 pages there is an intense 2-page biography of some major players in the history of African American invent ...more
Ms. Yingling
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
What Color Is My World?: The Lost History Of African American Inventors
Ella and Herbie move in to a run down house and aren't happy about it, but when they have to help the handyman, Mr. Mital, he teaches them that many of the items in the house were invented by African-Americans. The story of the home renovation is broken up by short biographies of various inventors, comic panels describing the inventions, and many other sidebars detailing a wide range of little known African-American inventors
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
The reads-like-a-story format is annoying since there are so many overlooked or not well known inventors that will be super useful for reports not to mention personal reading and inspiration. Kudos to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the idea, shame shame on his publishers Candlewick Press for not including a table of contents, alphabetical list (or any order list) of the inventors included, and other pertinent information. Sigh. Librarian heavily sighing. Am on the fence about ordering this since it may ...more
This story is built around the mission of introducing lesser-known African American inventors and how their contributions are put to use in our daily lives. The information is excellent. Snapshots about several black inventors is included and gives readers a solid understanding of the period in which they were born and raised, the hurdles in their lifetime and how they died as well as the legacy they left behind.

What isn't as strong is the story constructed around the information about the inve
Jun 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book will serve as a source of inspiration for one of the cultural groups represented in my classrooms, African-Americans. Even my primary students will understand how important these African-American scientists were because my students depend on things they helped develop--nuclear power, light bulbs, personal computers, 3-D movies, food preservatives, potato chips, and the Super-Soaker. The biographies are woven into a fictional story about a family who moves into a new house. The children ...more
I don't know why I forgot to mark this as read! I actually created a library program inspired by this book last year, and it was pretty neat, if I do say so myself.

The book itself is kind of an odd duck--the fictional framing story about 2 modern children who learn about the history of black inventors from their family's mysterious handyman means that the book is shelved as fiction, but the actual information about the inventors is factual.

Abdul-Jabbar and Obstfeld's text is fine, but for me t
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Saw this in a book store one day and bought it on the spot. I love this book! It has a fiction story with nonfiction biographies intertwined. It's engaging because often nonfiction books are dry and children can lose interest in them. The presentation of the black inventors in the nonfiction story helps children see the real life connection of the said invention, like the potato chips from lunch and George Crum or the cell phone and James West's invention of a microphone piece that goes into pho ...more
Valerie Barnhart
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inventors
What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African -American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld copyright 2013. Twin Text for Celebration of Achievement Nonfiction Text set.

This fiction story relates the celebration of a family as they move into a family home. A handyman helps the children realize the great history of the African Americans. It focuses on the concept that all inventions great and small help in the development of mankind. For a strategy to apply for this text,
Rd Kelly
Apr 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
Another perpetuation of myths manufactured for an agenda. Kareem should be ashamed for putting his name on this.
I suggest you google "Black Invention Myths - Brinkster"
for a scholarly and detailed look at some of these claims which have been made many times before.
Ignore the somewhat bitter tone of the web page intro-- the facts are solid.

Many claims in this book are not new. They have been published and shown to be wrong a number of times. And the authors of this book seem to me to be capitaliz
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is about black inventors who have made significant contributions to our everyday lives. The book is a story told through two young black children who are helping an carpenter fix up their new-to-them, old house. He tells them all about inventors that contributed to things they see as they make their way around the house.

The children are bright, imaginative and fun. The carpenter is slightly mysterious, which makes him very interesting. The ending was surprising. An excellent book to u
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors is a nonfiction book about African American Inventors. This book incorporates several different inventions that are well known as well as some that are not as well known. This book hopes to open people's eyes to African American inventors which for so long have been "hidden" because of their race. What Color Is My World? can be paired with other books about inventors, inventions, African Americans, science experiments, and c ...more
Penny Peck
Mar 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-ya
Normally I don't like nonfiction books that have a fictional element, but in this case, the story works well in conveying a personal importance to these inventors. A brother and sister learn about various inventions contributed by African-Americans, and how those inventions impact the average household. The color illustrations of the fictional story are pleasing, and the nonfiction material, often set on flaps and gatefold pages, are printed to look like a child's binder paper and writing. Sure ...more
May 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Although our library put this in children's fiction for the little bit of story there is, I mostly enjoyed the nonfiction aspect which is packed with the life stories and contributions of African American inventors, some I'm familiar with and others not. It brings out more forcefully than I've seen anywhere else, how our country for centuries has deliberatly pushed down, ignored, and lied about what our African American citizens have brought to the table. Where would we be as a country if we had ...more
Sandy Brehl
The fictional component is based on a mom and two kids (African Americans) who are preparing to move into a dilapidated home. Handyman Mr. Mital, also African American, works with the kids while telling them the history of many African American inventors. Those "lessons" are woven into the story, but fold out flaps and biographical inserts contain detailed information, illustrations, and elaborations. The extra large format, appealing illustrations, and story format make extensive factual inform ...more
Sascha Perry
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What Color is My World is an exciting yet non-fictional quick read for secondary students. It provides an in-depth history lesson on lesser known African-American inventors. Ella and Herbie’s family have moved into a new home that they are less than pleased with. With the help of a new and interesting friend Mr. Mital, the family is introduced to a “museum for all of its history.” Through this exciting history lesson the reader is invited to learn and laugh while traveling through time focusing ...more
Victoria Becker
What Color is My World? The Lost History of African American Inventors is a lexile level 880 which translates to a level V. The target reading level for 5th grade is T, U and V at the end of 5th grade. This book is above reading level for most of the kids in my class. For this reason we could read it as a whole class. As an extension activity we could assign inventions to students and have them conduct further research on this invention. What Color is My World is nonfiction.
NYS CC Standard: Stu
Too many kids are growing up unaware of some of science's important contributors and innovators. This book seeks to remedy that in part with mini-bios of black inventors and the significant impacts they've made (blood bank, heart surgery, the personal computer, 3-D, potato chips, even the Super Soaker toy). The narrative about the kids and Mr. Mital that string the biographies together is a bit awkward, but overall it's an attractive package that will appeal to kids interested in science, black ...more
A refreshing take on African-American history for kids. I wasn't thrilled about the illustrations, but the text itself was interesting and presented in a creative way to get kids interested in learning history. I learned about African American inventors that I never knew abut and was actually inspired to even look up a few. I would definitely recommend this one to students and would encourage them to read it anytime - not only for Black History Month reports. ...more
Apr 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Grade Levels: 1-3
This lively, kid-friendly book that gives young readers a look into the history of several “unsung” African-American inventors and innovators, such as James West (invented the microphone in cellular devices) and Fred Jones (invented the refrigerated truck). This book may used for a STEM lesson since it features technology (microphones, cellular devices) and engineering. It also encourages and promotes cultural awareness and diversity in the classroom.
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. on April 16, 1947 in New York City, New York, United States) is an American former professional basketball player and current assistant coach. Typically referred to as Lew Alcindor in his younger days, he changed his name when he converted to Islam.

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