Grades 1-3 (Tundra Books, 2011)
In the Bag: Margaret Knight Wraps It Up is the newest release in Tundra’s Great Idea Series. It is the biography of Margaret (Mattie) Knight who in 1873 became the first woman awarded a patent in the US.
As in All Aboard! Elijah McCoy’s Steam Engine and It’s a Snap! George Eastman’s First Photograph, Monica Kulling engages young readers by introducing them to the titular character as a child. Mattie is twelve when she designs her first invention, a safety feature later installed on all looms.
While the books in this series may have historically relevant stories to impart, they hold a greater significance too. Knight, McCoy and Eastman each had many hardships to overcome before their work was completed and recognized. Of course, a woman in Knight’s time was not expected to know anything about machines and, confident in this belief, Charles Annon registered Knight’s original design for a flat-bottomed bag machine as his own. Knight stood up, fought him in court and won, proving herself not only an ingenious inventor, but a worthy role model as well.
In the illustrations for this book, David Parkins finds a terrific balance, picking up on the atmosphere Bill Slavin brought to the earlier books, but infusing this volume with his own touches. A full-colour Knight, with her wild and wiry red hair, leaps off backgrounds of muted factory workers.
With its subtle humour and depth of content, In the Bag! has much to offer to kids in Grades 1 through 3.