The Boo Boos That Changed the World: A True Story About an Accidental Invention (Really)

Written by Barry Wittenstein

Illustrated by Chris Hsu

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Illustrator Interview

Informational Resources:

Author Information:

Author website:

Author biography and FAQ:

Author interview on the Charlesbridge Unplugged #2 podcast (26:04):

Author interview with Children’s Book Review:

Activities & Resources:


Discussion and activities guide (Charlesbridge website):

Earle Dickson:

Read Earle Dickson’s biography on the website of the Lemelson-MIT college program that honors outstanding inventors and encourages young people to create and invent:

Earle Dickson was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2017:

Band-Aid History:

Read the Band-Aid invention story, found on the website of Johnson & Johnson, the company that makes this innovative product:

Watch this CBS Sunday Morning interview, “Band-Aids: Still Sticking Around,” produced on  the 94th anniversary of this invention (2:39):

Find out more information about how the Boy Scouts were involved in the early use of Band-Aids:

Check out these fun facts in wound care history from ancient Egyptian times to the present day:

Fun with Band-Aids:

See a video of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest winners who had to design a machine that could apply a Band-Aid without human assistance (00:58):

This classic 1948 Band-Aid commercial that features a Band-Aid lifting an egg and sticking to it in boiling water is still impressive today (1:04):

Medical Inventions:

Five medical discoveries that changed the world:

Take a look at this history of medicine timeline. Can you find Band-Aids on this list?:


Johnson & Johnson created first-aid kits almost 100 years ago. Here is a suggested list items that should be included in a home or car first-aid kit today. Why do you think each of these items would be selected for a first-aid kit? Research the items for which you are unfamiliar to learn their first-aid purpose.:

Children and teens should know basic safety and first-aid. Read these eight tips and select a first-aid skill with which you are unfamiliar. Create a plan for how to learn the skill, in case you ever have to use it in an emergency. Who are the people who could help you practice this new skill?:

Kids can be inventors, too!:

Be inspired! Read about children and teens who had an idea or a problem that prompted the development of a commercially successful invention:

Would you like to try inventing but aren’t sure how to get started? Scroll through this article until you find the section entitled, “Tips on creating your own invention.” Find an idea or two that might help you begin to think like an inventor:

Check out PBS’ Design Squad Global site for a list of project possibilities on a variety of topics. Find an idea that you’d like to explore, either by yourself or with a friend:

Earle Dickson demonstrated the character trait of persistence when he kept on working on his new bandage idea until he got it just right.  Write a poem about the importance of being persistent, or never giving up.

MakerSpace Activities:

Identify a safety issue at your school or in your neighborhood. With a partner, design a safety campaign to publicize ways to creatively address the problem. Record a public service announcement to use as a part of the campaign.

Using the History of Healing & Innovation chart found at, create a 3-D timeline of great moments in Band-Aid development.

Pretend you are living in the 1920’s, the time period when Earle Dickson developed his idea for the Band-Aid. Write a script for a radio news report about the discovery of Band-Aids. Include interviews with Earle Dickson and his wife Josephine. Record the news report as if you were reporting for a radio station. For fun, include a commercial for Band-Aids as a part of the radio report.

A number of companies manufacture bandages that are very similar in shape and design to Band-Aids. Set up an experiment to compare the strength of several different brands of bandages. Be sure to include Band-Aids!  How will you determine which bandage is the strongest? Will you change the conditions of your testing through the experiment, so that moisture or durability are involved? How will you record and present your findings? This would be a good team activity for 3-4 kids who are interested in science and math.

Take the challenge!  Scroll down the Invention Convention curriculum page ( to find the 7-step invention process.

Then start with Step 1 (identifying a problem) and work through the final step (communicating your invention and the process). You can work independently or with a group. Remember the importance of persistence!

Discussion Questions:

Define the term “accident prone.” What might be some of the reasons that Josephine was always getting hurt, especially in the kitchen? What tips would you give Josephine to help her be safer in her home?

Describe how Earle’s job as a cotton buyer for a hospital supplies manufacturer might have influenced his bandage invention.

In the section of the book when Earle tried out his first idea, the author wrote the scene in a series of steps. What might have been the author’s reason for using this step format for this scene.

When Earle realized what a big job making bandages himself would be, what role did Earle’s co-worker play in his success? Describe a time you helped a friend who was having trouble with a project or a decision. How did you decide what suggestions to make?

Earle guesses that his new idea might help thousands of people. Is Earle bragging when he suggests this possibility? Agree or disagree, and then explain your opinion.

Earl and his boss combine the words “bandage” and “first aid” to create the name of the new product. List 2-3 other products with a name that is a combination of two words.

Even after the production of Band-Aids became faster and easier with the invention of a new machine, the public still wasn’t excited about this innovative product. Share some reasons why the public didn’t immediately and enthusiastically start buying Band-Aids.

Why do you think people are sometimes slow to change their habits?

The author writes that giving the Band-Aids away to the Boy Scouts was “truly a stroke of genius.” Why were the Boy Scouts the perfect group to be introduced to these new bandages? Think of another group that might have also benefited in large numbers from the use of Band-Aids, and then describe why your suggestion could have also worked with this other group.

Describe how the author makes a little joke (actually, a pun) when he writes, “Earle and Josephine’s invention was a smash.”

Look at the double-page illustration of the world with the cries of “ouch!” in other languages. Do you recognize any of these languages? What role is the Band-Aid playing in the illustration?

Often an informational book will have several pages of additional information in the back of the book. This additional information is called “back matter.” Why would an author who has completed the book decide to have even more information for the reader to read? Which section of back matter interests you the most in this book? Why did you select that section?

Why did the author choose to use humor throughout the book? Find an example of humor in the story that backs up your opinion.

This book has a very long title (14 words!). What might be the purpose of having such a long title for a 32-page book? Share a title that you would create for the book. Why did you make the changes you did for your new title?

What role did Josephine play in the story? What personal characteristics did Josephine demonstrate in the invention process? How did she affect the success of the project?

What personal characteristics did Earle demonstrate as he worked on his invention? For each characteristic, find a scene that illustrates that trait in the story. Explain how each  personal characteristic contributed to Earle’s success. Tell about a time you demonstrated one of Earle’s traits when you were working on a project.

The author led the reader to believe that the book was finished several times, proclaiming “The End’”.  Explain why the author might have used this writing strategy throughout the book. What effect do the story re-starts have on the reader?

Book Talk Teasers:

Present the readers theater for The Boo-Boos that Changed the World: a True Story about an Accidental Invention (Really!).

Select one of the Band-Aid commercials that is easily found on YouTube and preview it for potential readers. Ask if anyone has any idea how Band-Aids were invented. After readers share their answers, suggest that they read the book to see if any of the guesses were close to the actual invention process.

Read Alikes:

Invention (general)

Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem. What color is my world?: how African-American inventors changed the way we live. While twins Ella and Herbie help the handyman Mr. Midal work on their new home, he tells them about such inventors as Granville Woods, Dr. Henry T. Sampson, and James West, giving them a new view of their heritage as African-Americans. (NoveList Plus)

Jones, Charlotte Foltz. Mistakes that worked: the world’s familiar inventions and how they came to be. Presents the stories behind forty items that were invented or named by accident, including aspirin, X-rays, frisbees, silly putty, and velcro. (NoveList Plus)

Thimmesh, Catherine. Girls think of everything: stories of ingenious inventions by women. Tells the story of how women throughout the ages have responded to situations confronting them in daily life by inventing such items as correction fluid, space helmets, and disposable diapers. (NoveList Plus)

Turner, Tracey. 100 inventions that made history: brilliant breakthroughs that shaped our world. Describes the development of one hundred world-changing inventions, including rockets, the internet, refrigerators, blue jeans, light bulbs, and antibiotics. (NoveList Plus)

Invention (DIY for kids)

Anderson, Maxine. Amazing Leonardo da Vinci inventions you can build yourself. Provides step-by-step instructions for creating various projects that Leonardo da Vinci invented or envisioned in his notebooks using everyday household items. (NoveList Plus)

Casey, Susan. Kids inventing: a handbook for young inventors. A book for tweens about inventing features a step-by-step guide and case studies of young inventor. (NoveList Plus)

Warren, Mike. The gadget inventor handbook. Gizmos, gadgets, circuits, and LEDs: this how-to book is packed with 14 hands-on projects, from easy to advanced, for inventive kids! From drawing a robot to building a racing machine, every design features detailed step-by-step instructions and ample illustrations to guide kids as they master core electronics skills. All the objects are customizable and perfect for firing up children’s imaginations. (NoveList Plus)

Inventors (biography)

Barton, Chris. The Day-Glo brothers: the true story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s bright ideas and brand-new colors. Describes the discovery of fluorescent paint by Bob and Joe Switzer, who experimented for years before finding the formula for creating colors which could glow in sunlight, a feature which led to the paint being used for safety items around the world. (NoveList Plus)

Krull, Kathleen. The boy who invented TV: the story of Philo Farnsworth. This picture-book biography explains how Farnsworth held on to his dream to develop television and the scientific concepts behind it. (NoveList Plus)

McCully, Emily Arnold. Marvelous Mattie: how Margaret E. Knight became an inventor. Mattie Knight loved to make things ranging from a foot warmer for her mother or toys for her older brothers. Or, when she was 12, a metal guard to prevent shuttles from shooting off looms and hurting workers. Later, Mattie invented a machine that could cut and glue the square-bottomed paper bags we still use today. Meet the woman known as “the Lady Edison.” (NoveList Plus)

Slade, Suzanne. The inventor’s secret: what Thomas Edison told Henry Ford. Describes the friendship between the two inventors and how Thomas Edison’s advice to the young Henry Ford inspired Ford to work on his automobiles until he came up with an inexpensive, reliable version which became the Model T. (NoveList Plus)

Inventors (personal characteristics)

Grandin, Temple. Calling all minds: how to think and create like an inventor. The internationally renowned autism spokesperson, scientist and inventor shares stories and facts to introduce the ideas behind everyday items and innovations, inviting prospective young inventors to gain understanding about the mental processes behind tinkering, building and creating. (NoveList Plus)

St. George, Judith. So you want to be an inventor? Presents some of the characteristics of inventors by describing the inventions of people such as Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Eli Whitney. (NoveList Plus)

Medical Innovations

Boudreau, Helen. Miraculous Medicines. Find out about the groundbreaking discoveries that have saved billions of lives such as antiseptics, vaccines, and antibiotics. Learn how technology like X-rays, CT scans, MRI, and PET scans allow doctors to see inside our bodies. (NoveList Plus)

Jacobson, Ryan. Marvelous medical inventions. Explores such medical inventions as contact lenses, toothpaste, braces, and anesthesia. (NoveList Plus)

Mihailidis, Alex. New hands, new life: robots, prostheses and innovation. Covers how advances in science and technology have made it possible for people with physical disabilities to overcome challenges. (NoveList Plus)

Newquist, H. P. The human body. An exploration of the objects that scientists and tinkerers throughout history have invented to protect, repair, or improve our bodies. (NoveList Plus)


Wittenstein, Barry. Illustrated by Chris Hsu. The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story About an Accidental Invention (Really!).  Charlesbridge, 2018.


The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story about an Accidental Invention (Really!).

Wittenstein, Barry (author). Illustrated by Chris Hsu.

Feb. 2018. 32p. Charlesbridge, hardcover, $16.99 (9781580897457). Grades 1-3. 617.1. REVIEW. First published February 1, 2018 (Booklist).

Today, people have the luxury of covering their cuts with adhesive bandages that sparkle, glow in the dark, and look like tattoos. But how did the first Band-Aid come to be? This peppily illustrated picture book looks at the history of this now ubiquitous item, the man who invented it, and his accident-prone muse. Earle Dickson couldn’t help but notice that his wife, Josephine, constantly injured herself, and bulky bandages just made things more difficult. As the son of a doctor and an employee of a company that made medical supplies, Earle had just the right background and resources to produce a eureka moment. One day in 1920, he created his first adhesive bandage by placing squares of sterile gauze on tape and covering them with crinoline. Voilà! The Band-Aid was born. Wittenstein uses conversational text to describe how the product was initially a flop, and to show the various forms the Band-Aid took before becoming the individual strip people know today. Lightly fictionalized writing is balanced by the author’s note and appended time lines. — Julia Smith

Used with the permission of Booklist

School Library Journal (January 1, 2018) 

Gr 2-4-“Necessity is the mother of invention.”Never is that so true than when it involves actual bodily injury! This book tells the fascinating story of the invention of the Band-Aid in the early twentieth century. Josephine Dickson was particularly accident-prone in the kitchen, inspiring her husband Earle to come up with a creative solution. The narrative moves smoothly through the Dickson’s household solution to the local impact (give Band-Aids to the Boy Scouts) to the global impact (Band-Aids were given to soldiers in World War II and are now used worldwide). Instructive back matter includes additional factual information about Earle Dickson, Band-Aids, and other major medical breakthroughs. The book tells the story with a delightful sense of humor. A running “The End” gag will make kids chuckle throughout as they will think they’ve reached the end of the story only to find out that it is not over yet. The splendid illustrations include historical details that evoke a distinct sense of time and place. VERDICT A funny and illuminating nonfiction entry that will hold particular appeal for aspiring inventors and future medical professionals.-Alyssa -Annico, Youngstown State University, OH © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.  

Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal ©2018