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Reason for Reading: I enjoy Monica Kulling's children's biographies.

Another delightful entry in the Great Ideas series! This time Kulling brings us an inventor probably not known to many people, certainly I'd never heard of her before. Margaret Knight was prolific with her inventions and patents throughout her life but her most famous achievement was in the paper bag industry. While she did not invent the flat-based paper bag she did invent the machine that made it possible to mass produce them instead of having each one individually hand produced. Margaret Knight is an interesting woman of the late 1800s, who went against the lot cast for woman of the time period. While she felt her life had been hampered because she was a woman she managed to rise above the attitudes of the day and achieve so much as a woman inventor.

A great, interesting little story. I loved being introduced to this lesser known inventor and David Parkins illustrations are incredibly detailed with great facial expressions that nicely show the time period, being somewhat reminiscent of Rockwell. Must have for libraries.
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on February 4, 2012
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.
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on October 15, 2011
It was with real anticipation that I cracked open my copy of Monica Kulling's and David Parkins' newest book, "In the Bag! Margaret Knight Wraps It Up". As the illustrator of Monica's two previous books in Tundra's Great Idea Series, I was curious to see where this pairing of talents had taken things.

My expectations were certainly well rewarded! Monica's crisp prose and snappy dialogue tell the tale of Margaret Knight, Victorian inventor. Through what can only be described as literary non-fiction for the very young, Monica introduces us to the life of this remarkable woman, starting with her as a young girl working in a factory and touching on a few key moments in her lifetime of inventing. She builds towards the dramatic moment when Margaret Knight asserts herself as a bona fide inventor at a time when inventing was not seen as a proper pursuit for a woman.

As in her previous book in the series, "All Aboard! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine," Kulling's unlikely hero's success is not so much her invention, the paper bag, as her ability to rise above the mores of the time and succeed in a world where the odds are stacked against her. Knight's determination, entrepreneurism and sheer verve carry her through to success and serve as a beacon of inspiration for any young reader who desires to leave their mark on this world.

David Parkins masterful illustrations in pen and ink and watercolour bring Margaret Knight's story to life. As a huge fan of his work, I was not surprised to see that he tackled the subject matter with authority and humour, bringing a wealth of Victorian era minutiae to each and every page with drawings that are deceptively clean and straight forward, yet represent a mastery of his craft that few illustrators can emulate.

A terrific book, in content, writing and illustration "In the Bag!" will be a real boon to any classroom or fledgeling inventor's bookshelf.
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on October 19, 2011
A master at writing biographies for young readers, Monica has written three books for the Great Idea Series, published by Tundra Books. I have to say, "In The Bag: Margaret Knight Wraps It Up" is my favorite book in the series to date.

Like many children growing up in the 1850s, Mattie began working at age 12 to help support her family. Working at a cotton mill, she witnesses a terrible accident as a shuttle flies off the loom, injuring a young worker. Mattie wondered if anything could be done to help make the looms safer. It turns out, Mattie has a mind for solving problems and a knack for building things. In fact, she made the best kites and sleds in town! In hopes to make the shuttles safer to operate, Young Mattie invents a special shuttle cover. The factory owner is duly impressed and installs the stop motion device in all his looms. Unfortunately, Mattie is too young to register a patent. Worse, no one believes a child--and a girl, no less - could invent such a device.

Mattie, however, does not give up her love of inventing machines. By the time she's thirty, she has become an independent woman. While working at a paper-bag factory, Mattie has another great idea: to build a machine that would cut, fold and paste a flat-bottom bag. After years of trial and error, Mattie succeeds in creating the design. Before she can patent it, however, she needs to build an iron model. But nobody believes a woman can think of such a design, much less make it work. As she struggles to find someone to help build her model, the scandalous Charles Annan steals her idea. Now, Mattie must fight to prove she is the designer!

Monica's lively narrative brings the indomitable Mattie to life. Mattie does not give up! This is an engaging, inspiring easy read aloud.
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on October 24, 2011
'Twelve-year-old Margaret Knight, often called Mattie, was different from most American girls living in 1850. She loved to make things with wood. She made the best kites and sleds in town!' And so Monica Kulling draws us into the world of Mattie, a problem-solving brainstorming no-holds-barred gal who, when she is thirty, first gets the idea to develop a flat-bottomed brown paper bag that can stand up all on its own. IN THE BAG! MARGARET KNIGHT WRAPS IT UP is the latest book in Kulling's series about inventors, and, like the others, it is terrific and will appeal to boys and girls alike. Kulling's informative, deliciously succinct but playful text conveys both the historical context of the time and the irrepressible spirit of the inventor. We end up cheering for Mattie as she follows her passion for discovery, sidestepping the boundaries of convention and discrimination whenever necessary ('Why didn't your husband bring in his invention himself?' asked the machinist. Margaret stood as tall as she was able. 'Because I am the inventor,' she said.) Oh, and when you've reached the end of the tale, you'll want to reread the poem with which Kulling begins the book, a lovely feature of each book in her series.
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on October 17, 2011
"In the Bag!: Margaret Knight Wraps It Up", written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by David Parkins is a book that is perfect for school classrooms, and for home reading. Girls of course, will enjoy it most, (the eight year old girl in our family sure did!) but so will boys, as they will be able to see, that despite the paternalistic society of 1850 in the USA, a young woman of intelligence, creativity, and resourcefulness was able to design and create an amazing invention - and did not back down when the plans were stolen from her. She won her court case and went on to invent many more useful devices.

Told in her usual crisp, clear and compelling style, Monica Kulling has brought this amazing young woman's world to full life in this lovely book; and Margaret's freshness and spirit is also echoed in charming and detailed artwork of David Parkins. This is a story for everyone; a wonderful, inspiring narrative that shows how one young working-class woman, bold and innovative and creative enough to follow her dreams, became one of the quiet (yet feisty) models for other women of the times (and even now!); showing them through her bold actions and bravery that they could (and can),indeed, follow their dreams. Margaret Knight is my new hero!
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