Dynamic Book Duos: Inventors with Learning Differences

Please welcome authors Nancy Churnin and Katie Mazeika to Dynamic Book Duos – a blog featuring two books that pair together in a meaningful way along with educational activities to strengthen reading skills. This week’s pairing focuses on inventors with learning differences.

PERFECT PAIR: Inventors with Learning Differences

Beulah Louise Henry was nicknamed “Lady Edison.” Which means we can call Thomas Edison Mr. Beulah Louise Henry! The talent that both these inventors had for creating things is just one of the reasons Beulah Has a Hunch! By Katie Mazeika and Thomas Edison, How a Boy Who Learned Differently Changed the World by Nancy Churnin are a perfect pairing. These two also processed the world differently. Beulah had synesthesia and hyperphantasia. Thomas was nearly deaf, was more comfortable with objects than people, left school at an early age because he didn’t learn in the same way other children did, and would never let go of a problem until he solved it.

Book 1: Beulah Has A Hunch! Inside the Colorful Mind of Master Inventor Beulah Louise Henry

Meet Beulah Louise Henry, a girl with a knack for problem-solving who grew up to be a world-famous inventor. .Growing up in the 1890s, when Beulah Louise Henry spotted a problem, she had to find a solution, turning it around and around in her mind until…aha! She had a hunch—what she called the inventions she came up with to solve the puzzles she saw all around her.

Beulah’s brain worked differently. She had hyperphantasia, which meant she saw things in extreme detail in her mind, as well as synesthesia, which caused words and numbers and even music notes to show up as different colors in her brain. Beulah’s unique way of seeing the world helped her think up vivid solutions to problems—her hunches came to her fully formed with gears whirring and wheels spinning. She invented everything from a new and improved parasol to cuddly stuffed animals and from ice cream makers to factory machinery. Beulah’s inventions improved daily life in lots of ways, earning her the nickname “Lady Edison,” and she became one of the most prolific inventors in American history.

Book 2: Thomas Edison: How a Boy Who Learned Differently Changed the World

Could a boy who struggled to learn in school grow up to be a man who changed the world? The answer to that question is—yes. For that is what Thomas Edison did. As a boy, Thomas sold newspapers on the Grand Trunk Railroad, while also conducting experiments. Overtime he became an inventor extraordinaire! On September 4, 1882, a switch was pulled, and lights shone over one square mile of New York City. That event changed our way of life forever.

Educational Activities:

Discussion Questions:

1. If you would have gone to school with Beulah and/or Thomas, would you have been friends with them?  What would be the most fun things you would like to do with them?

2. How do Beulah’s and Thomas’ differences help them become better at inventing? What is synesthesia, what is hyperphantasia and how do these two things help Beulah in creating new things? How does Thomas’ deafness and his unusual approach to learning help him become a successful inventor?

3. Beulah’s inventions include a sewing machine that wouldn’t tangle thread, a hair curler, and a can opener. Thomas’ inventions include the phonograph and an improved electric light. How did Beulah’s and Thomas’ inventions improve ordinary life?

4. Why do you think Beulah and Thomas cared so much about making ordinary people’s lives easier?

5. Both Beulah and Thomas often took existing ideas or objects and made them better. What objects exist today that you would like to see improved?


Pretend you are a reporter interviewing Beulah and Thomas. What questions would you ask them? Using the information provided in these books, what do you think they would answer?

Beulah observed the world and had “hunches” about how she could improve the everyday things she saw around her. Thomas was the same way. Take one of Beulah’s inventions and one of Thomas’ inventions. Can you think of ways you might improve them? Try and see if your ideas work!

Look around your environment. What do you have a “hunch” about? Take an ordinary item that you use often and experiment with ways that you can improve it.

Meet the Authors:

Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw

Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw is an award-winning nonfiction children’s book author and former elementary special education teacher who is passionate about growing young minds. Suzanne’s first nonfiction picture book, I Campaigned for Ice Cream: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks, debuted in April 2019 from Warren Publishing. Her second book Mighty Mahi launched from Doodle and Peck Publishing in March 2022. Suzanne enjoys speaking to schools about writing, leadership, and how kids can make a difference in our world. The proud momma of two grown boys, Suzanne lives in Waterford, MI with her husband and furry writing companion Ziggy. When she’s not dreaming up new writing projects, you can find her kayaking on the lake, hiking the trail, practicing at the yoga studio, or comparing paint swatches at the local Sherwin Williams.

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