Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Author: Chris Barton

Illustrator: Don Tate

Published: May 2016

Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing

A cool idea with a big splash!
You know the Super Soaker. It’s one of the top twenty toys of all time. And it was an accidental discovery that brought it into being. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy.

A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity was present in Lonnie Johnson’s early life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, Lonnie demonstrated persistence and a passion for problem-solving that became the cornerstone of his career as an engineer and his work with NASA. But it is Lonnie’s invention of the Super Soaker water gun that has made the most memorable splash in popular culture.



Kirkus ** Starred review **

“Tate plays up the pressurized-water imagery to the hilt. In a thoughtful author’s note, Barton explains how Johnson challenges the stereotypical white, Einstein-like vision of a scientist. A delightfully child-friendly and painfully necessary diversification of the science field.”

Publishers Weekly ** Starred review **

“[T]he story of African-American inventor Lonnie Johnson is tailor-made for a young audience, and Barton and Tate do it justice in this inspiring account . . . Tate’s inviting digital illustrations bring an appropriately playful air to the pages, especially in a foldout spread showing the Super Soaker’s blast in all of its glory.”



A Junior Library Guild Selection, Fall 2016
Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List (selection), 2017-18
Spirit of Texas Reading Program – Middle School Reading List, 2017
Parents Magazine’s “10 Best Children’s Books 2016”
CBC Best STEM Books, 2016
New York Public Library’s Best Books for Kids, 2016
NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2016
Cook Prize Honor Book, 2017
Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award (nominee), 2017-2018
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 2017
Watertown Free Public Library Book Award Nonfiction Winner, 2017
ILA-CBC Children’s Choices (finalist), 2017
Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (nominee), 2017-2018
Chickadee Award (nominee), 2017-2018
Rhode Island Children’s Book Award (nominee), 2018
CCBC Choices List, 2017
North Carolina Children’s Book Award (nominee), 2018
Towner Award (nominee), 2018
Denton Record Chronicle Award for Best Children’s Picture Book (finalist), 2017
Maryland Blue Crab Young Readers Award winner transitional nonfiction, 2017
Red Clover Children’s Book Award nominee K-4, 2017-2018
Volunteer State Book Award (nominee), 2018-2019
Read On Wisconsin (nominee), 2017-2018
Writers’ League of Texas Book Awards PB Finalist, 2016
Connecticut Nutmeg Award (nominee), 2019
Kirkus Best Books of 2016



  • Alcalde: July|August 2016 Alumni Authors
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science: Summer Reading: Invention and Innovation
  • Book-It Repertory Theatre: Announcing the Arts and Education 2017-2018 Touring Shows!
  • Booklist: Core Collection: Picture-Book Biographies of Scientists
  • Booklist: Classroom Connections: Overlooked Inventors and Their Notable Inventions
  • The Booklist Reader: Super-Soaked Summer Fun with Scientist Lonnie Johnson
  • CBS News: Making a big splash with the Super Soaker
  • Celebrate Picture Books: National Inventors Month: Whoosh!
  • Charlesbridge: Encouraging Inspiration and Invention: The WHOOSH! Backstory
  • Colours of Us: 40 Best Multicultural Picture Books of 2016
  • Don Tate: Illustrating Lonnie Johnson’s story, Whoosh!
  • Don Tate: Whoosh! Research and texting with Lonnie Johnson
  • Forbes: The Inventor Of The Super Soaker Talks About Turning Inventions Into Products And His Next Big Idea
  • A Fuse #8 Production:31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 24 — 2016 Science and Nature Books for Kids
  • A Fuse #8 Production:31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 27 — 2016 Nonfiction Picture Books
  • A Fuse #8 Production: (like you really need another list from me) 100 Magnificent Children’s Books 2016!
  • Here Wee Read: 55 of the Best Diverse Picture and Board Books of 2016
  • The Horn Book: 2017 Summer Reading: Easy Readers and Primary Grades
  • Junior Library Guild: Sofa Secrets with Chris Barton and Don Tate
  • Kid Lit Frenzy: Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday
  • Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook: Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – My 2016 Favorites
  • Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook: Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 5.11.16 Super Soakers!
  • NBC News: Super Soaker Inventor Takes Aim at Funding High School Robotics Teams
  • The Nonfiction Detectives: The Best Nonfiction Books of 2016
  • Pernille Ripp: My Favorite Picture Books of 2016
  • Publishers Weekly: A Day of Accolades at Bank Street
  • PW KidsCast: A Conversation with Chris Barton
  • PW ShelfTalker: A Joyful Diversity Collection
  • Scholastic: 50 Sensational Books of Summer
  • Smithsonian Institution Lemelson Center: Innovative Lives: Lonnie Johnson
  • Texas Bluebonnet Award: Chris Barton Interview
  • Texas Bluebonnet Award: Don Tate Interview