Machines in Motion by Tom Jackson and illustrated by Chris Mould

Machines in Motion is a fascinating picture book absolutely packed with interesting illustrations and trivia all about transportation.

Machines in Motion: The Amazing History of Transportation by Tom Jackson and illustrated by Chris Mould. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020. 64 pages.

Reading Level: Picture Books, ages 8-12

Recommended For: Ages 8-12

Do you ever think about the invention of the wheel? What about the many vehicles that take people from here to there? Did you know that the first man who attempted flying in a “rocket” was actually a Chinese man several centuries ago? Or that a monk tried to “fly” in the 11th century? Or that someone invented a hovercraft in 1959 that can “sail” over land and sea, both?

Machines in Motion takes a chronological approach to the history of vehicles, but it (helpfully) subdivides various transportation machines into the obvious categories of planes, trains, cars, ships, rockets, balloons (yes! balloons!), and more. Each category begins with a double page spread filled with small illustrations for each of the major innovations in the field. Some are connected via maze, some are connected via tracks (such as railroads), and some are loosely connected by their environment (such as space). Across the bottom, a mini timeline marches. The following two pages explain these key moments in more detail, using the same illustrations so readers can recognize what they’re reading about.

This is a picture book that will delight transportation fans of all ages, but ages 8-12 will enjoy it most.


  • Timeline dates are given in BCE/CE terminology, and there are occasional references to ideas/inventions older than 5,000 years (such as some of the ships). In general, though, all dates are confined to recorded history.
  • One illustration has skeletons peddling bikes, but the bicycle in question was called the “Boneshaker,” so it sort of fits!

Overall Rating: 4.25 out of 4.25

  • Worldview/Moral Rating: 4 out of 5
  • Literary/Artistic Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Northwest.

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