Richards’ intent was to honor four members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame for their contributions to the betterment of American life. In fact, the biogra-phies border on propaganda for science and technology as potential careers. Dreamers and Doers reads at various times like a history textbook, a collection of encomiums, a book of tall tales, a series of sermonettes on perseverance, a critique of political machinations, and a sociological treatise. Despite the variations in tone and emphasis, Richards’ careful research, plentiful illustrations, and easy-to-read style make the book accessible and appealing to younger readers.
Each narrative contains a bit of drama, a few crises, and many human-interest touches, in addition to statistics. Therefore, the book would be a useful adjunct to history, science, literature, and social studies classes, although science classes might find it lacking in explanations of how the inventions actually work. By stressing the obstacles that the inventors overcame, Richards teaches his young readers that barriers can be surmounted and that grit does eventually pay off. Because each narrative ends on a positive note about what the inventor would appreciate about the long-range effects of his work, Richards reinforces the ideas of the public rather than the private good. In order to combat twentieth century pessimism about the side effects of irresponsible technology, Richards chose to offer a positive and affirmative statement about what scientific advances can do to improve the lot of humanity.