Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor

“Caldecott Medalist McCully’s (Mirette on the High Wire ) lucid narrative and crisp period illustrations illuminate the early life of an impressive visionary. Born in 1838, young Mattie is inspired by the treasured toolbox she inherited from her father: “When she thought of things that could be made with the tools, she drew them in a notebook labeled My Inventions .” The gifted girl’s first inventions—a foot warmer, a bat-shaped kite, snow sleds—will certainly intrigue readers, who will find that sketches McCully recreates in panels at the bottom of the pages offer welcome insight into Mattie’s creative process. Working in a textile mill at the age of 12, the girl witnesses a runaway shuttle loosened from a loom that injures a peer, and consequently Mattie invents a safety device that later would be installed on looms in all the local mills. After that, she invents a machine that makes the first flat-bottomed paper grocery bags and successfully argues her case in court after a machine-shop worker steals the plans and files a patent for the invention. Mattie went on to establish the Eastern Paper Bag Company and remained a “professional inventor for the rest of her life.” In a concluding note, the author emphasizes Knight’s remarkable accomplishments and persistence during an era in which many believed “that women’s brains were inadequate for inventing.” This edifying story may well motivate youngsters to explore their own creativity.”

-Publishers Weekly

“A fictionalized biography introduces children to an enterprising 19th-century mill girl who invented, among other things, a machine to make square-bottomed brown-paper bags. McCully presents in Mattie Knight the very quintessence of Yankee ingenuity, a mechanical girl who makes an improved sled and sells them to the local children. At 12, in Manchester, N.H., she invents a device to prevent shuttles from flying dangerously off the looms, and she never looks back. Mattie’s stick-to-itiveness carries her through years of painstaking work and a threat to her patent rights as she makes her way as a woman inventor and entrepreneur. From the lovingly painted redbrick mills to the panels at the bottom of the pages that show Mattie’s sketches as she moves through life (including a facsimile of her actual patent drawings), it’s a beautiful looking book.”