Books for Makers, Part 1: Selection

The cover of  Press Here (Hervé Tullet, 2011).

The cover of Press Here (Hervé Tullet, 2011).

Because “making” can be hard to define, at least in the MAKEHSOP context, finding books that are a good fit for our visitors can be a challenge. Last summer, fellow Teaching Artist (and fellow librarian) Henry and I started picking new books to add to the MAKESHOP book collection so we could begin our Maker Story Time program. In this blog series, I’ll share some of the ways in which we go through the process of creating a library.

“Making,” in our definition (and there are many, and it is complicated), can include a spectrum of materials and processes. We sew, work with wood, code, construct, sculpt, and use both conventional and uncommon tools. We’re always imagining, building, creating, failing, and iterating. But none of those words translate particularly well into subject headings or keywords when you’re looking for good books–especially those that tell stories.

One way to find good books is to start with one good book you know. For example, I know the book Press Here (Hervé Tullet, 2011) is a great story time book because it has lots of pictures, provides an opportunity for listeners to interact, and it inspires the processes of creative thinking, computational thinking, design, and animation.

Then, I can start to dig a little deeper. We purchase most of our books from Amazon, which has a “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature. Similarly, Goodreads has “Readers Also Enjoyed” and (relevant) “Genres” sidebars. These can be a good way to browse other titles, but they can also be big misses because the other books’ similarities might not have anything to do with good maker qualities.

 Press Here on Amazon.com

Press Here on Amazon.com, featuring “also viewed” books.


Turning to a library catalog provides a more standardized way of finding related subjects and titles. WorldCat, run by the nonprofit Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), is the largest online public access catalog currently available. WorldCat lists local libraries that carry titles, making it easy to find a title and try it out before purchasing (although it also provides purchasing links, ISBNs, and prices). It offers related subject heading links, target audience classification, and awards, among other catalog fields.

Press Here on OCLC

OCLC’s subject headings for Press Here (Hervé Tullet, 2011) yield links to additional materials with similar subjects.

Another way to get a good lead on titles is to keep up with certain organizations’ recommendations. MAKESHOP belongs to the membership-based professional organization Association of Science – Technology Centers (ASTC), which hosts a message board for us to share recommendations with like-minded practitioners. The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, releases a list of Notable Children’s Books annually, which automatically includes recipients of the following awards and honors:

Newbery – “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”

Caldecott – “most distinguished American picture book for children”

Belpré – “best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth”

Sibert – “most distinguished informational book published in the United States in English”

Geisel – “most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States”

Batchelder – “most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States”

The Notable Children’s Books list categorizes its books by audience age level, and provides a brief description of the title.

The Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC) also issues its own annual awards, including the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award, which “recognizes books that reflect the playful, well-paced language, the engaging themes, and the universal appeal to a wide range of ages.”

These are just a few of many ways in which to start a book search. Of course, you can also visit your local library and get recommendations from a librarian (which Henry and I did as our first step in this process). If you have favorite ways of finding new books, please share your tips with us in a comment.


Stay tuned for part two in this series, in which I’ll discuss the journey we’ve taken to classify the books that we’ve found and love!

Molly joined the MAKESHOP team in November 2013.

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