United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 9: INDUSTRY, INNOVATION & INFRASTRUCTURE

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

[Catherine Bae, The International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia]

In the hope of creating a modern society, one must look into industry, innovation and infrastructure. Many developing countries are working hard to establish the foundation for these goals. And with every successful community, there is a strong connection between effective and resilient infrastructure and industries supported by innovation. In a way, without innovation, strong industries will not form, and without strong industries, no stable infrastructure will form as a foundation for a thriving community. Industrialisation allows communities to expand to grow economically. 

Following are some of the published books that reflect the Sustainable Development Goal 9 of Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, both in a positive and a negative way.

On a small Island by Kyle Hughes-Odgers (2014) / Australia

The story introduces Ari who lives on a small island where not many ships pass by. Inspired by the arrivals of flotsam, jetsam, a visiting ship and a mysterious object, Ari hatches an idea. As his idea grows and changes, ships begin to stop on their journeys to see his new creation. 

There is a clear connection between Ari’s innovative ideas and the increasing numbers of ships dropping by. This could be a great discussion prompt for younger learners about how and why more businesses and trades may follow.

See this webpage on the Fremantle Press site for teaching notes as well as a short video that shows the author/illustrator painting the beautiful spreads that make up the book.

Moletown by Torben Kuhlmann, translated from German by Andrew Rushton (2015) / Switzerland / German author

Almost a wordless book, Moletown is a beautifully illustrated but dark book that presents the industrialisation of Moletown. The surface gradually changes due to the sprawling town that grows underneath leaving a small patch of grass to be protected. The book shows the darker side of industrialisation and the impact it has on moles’ (our) lives.

See also Kuhlmann’s charming mouse tales related to invention, innovation, and exploration.

Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann (2014) / Switzerland / German author
Edison: The Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure by Torben Kuhlmann (2018) / Switzerland / German author
Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann (2016) / Switzerland / German author

Can Your Smartphone Change the World? by Erinne Paisley (2017) / Canada
Can Your Conversations Change the World? by Erinne Paisley (2018) / Canada
Can your Outfit Change the World? by Erinne Paisley (2018) / Canada

Erinne Paisley is the young Canadian founder of PopActivism, public speaker, youth content developer, and a writer. Although her blog has not been recently updated, her three publications ask pertinent questions for all of us to consider:  

  • Can Your Smartphone Change the World?  

Part of a ‘Pop Activism’ series, this book is filled with examples of successful hashtag campaigns, viral videos and new socially conscious apps. The author offers practical advice in the use of smartphone technology as a tool for innovation and social justice through the tap of a screen. 

  • Can Your Outfit Change the World? 

This book prompts the readers to activist approach to their clothing, guiding them to investigate where the clothes are made and recommending environmentally friendly alternatives to consider. The readers get to see how the small action of raising awareness and donating funds is an alternative and applicable approach to activism. Paisley approaches the question of ‘can your outfit change the world? in a simple, informative way that has the potential to make anyone feel like they really do have the power to invoke positive change.

  • Can your Conversations Change the World? 

The third in the PopActivism series, Can Your Conversations Change the World? provides insight into the origins and history of feminism, how it plays out on the global stage and what it means to be a young feminist and activist today. She emphasises the need to have active conversations about what equality looks like.

Paisley also shared her personal narrative about her unique prom dress, emblazoned with the slogan “I’ve received my education. Not every woman has that right.” Her fashion and political statement made the headlines back in 2015 and fueled her desire to guide conversations that everyone needs to have.

Note: She is now researching and writing about the Internet, sex & human rights at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Follow her on Twitter: @ErinneP

Silver people: A Tale from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle (2014) / US / Cuban American author

The Panama canal opened over a hundred years ago. Since its opening, the passageway has linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and provided a new route for international trade and military transport. 

Construction took place over a 10 year period, with thousands of workers carving the canal by hand under a system known as canal apartheid. The workers were exploited and severely punished if they tried to escape.

This story, written in verse, brings forth voices of the main characters, Mateo and Henry, as well as some historical figures involved, including Theordore Roosevelt. It also captures the sounds of the jungle, with its mosquitoes and frogs, giving the readers a sense of the human context and costs involved in developing this example of ingenuity and driver of efficiency. Because of the price these workers paid, shippers of commercial goods, ranging from automobiles to grain, are still able to save time and money by transporting cargo more quickly between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. 

This book powerfully exposes the human cost of industries and infrastructure that have developed through human innovation.

Young Dark Emu: a truer history by Bruce Pascoe (2016) / Australia / Young readers’ edition of Dark Emu (2014)

Published for the younger readers based on the original version Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?, Bruce Pascoe shares the untold history of Australian Aborigines in the time of colonisation. Much of the Australian Aborigines are depicted as hunter gatherers but Pascoe shares how they also used agriculture and built villages based on the early explorers’ sketches and diary entries. These primary sources support Pascoe’s presentation of the Australian Aborigines’ innovative farming on land and in water.

The book was the winner of the 2020 Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, sponsored by the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA). See this teachers’ guide produced by the publisher.

The Inuit Thought of It: Amazing Arctic Innovations by Alootook Ipellie with contributions from David MacDonald (2000) / Canada

The winner of multiple awards, Ipellie examines more than 40 innovations that showcase Inuits’ traditional technology such as dog sleds, kayaks, clothing, medicine and food preservation. Such ingenuity is adapted to modern technology. Kayak, for example, retained its inuit word for a one-person watercraft and the slitted snow goggles acted like sunglasses of modern day design. Through the exploration of the Inuit’s innovation, Ipellie shares how these objects were made and how they impacted their modern day culture.

Note: This title is part of an Annick Press series called “We Thought of It” — which includes books on Latin Americans, Africans, Arabs, and Native Americans.

CRISPR: A Powerful Way to Change DNA by Yolanda Ridge (2020) / Canada/ For middle grade readers

The ability to change DNA provides hope for those facing many devastating diseases or ailments. It may allow species to adapt to unknown climatic futures or to resist viruses capable of causing pandemics. It may even see species brought back from extinction. In many ways gene editing allows humans to dramatically change the world, but that doesn’t always mean we should.

The CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology allows genes to be edited in ways that were previously impossible. This example of scientific innovation is explained with clear and accessible language, providing a foundation in the concepts of genetics and an explanation of the CRISPR technology itself. The author has deliberately created opportunities for readers to consider the many ways this innovative technology could potentially be used, and the benefits or harm that may result.

10 Routes that Changed the World by Gillian Richardson (2017) / Canada

Richardson (a librarian turned writer) invites readers to investigate the land routes which played an important role in empire-building, war, faith practices, trade, and more. Written for middle grade students, the book informs and also instills more wonderings about the world around us.

Some famous routes (including the deadly Alaskan Chilkoot trail or Route 66) and not so famous routes (like the tragic Ho Chi Minh trail or the Khyber Pass) are presented in the chapters. Each includes a brief introduction, a short fictional story depicting a child in historical context, a map of the route, the origin of its name, its age, claim to fame and current status. Depending on the route, further description covers information that might involve ancient history, geography, engineering, anthropology, archaeology, ideologies and more. 

Each route is a testament to the tenacity, inventiveness and determination of the human spirit. These routes not only show the innovative ways people have worked to connect various places, but they have also improved people’s lives through migration, commerce, exploration or pilgrimage.

Impossible Inventions by Małgorzata Mycielska, illustrated by Daniel Mizielinski and Aleksandra Mizielinska / Translated from Polish by Agnes Monod-Gayraud

A fun and wacky collection of 28 patented inventions from inventors including Da Vinci and Tesla – with a common thread of all being failures! Each invention is featured in a double-page spread with full colour illustrations with text and captions. Further explanation of the practicality of the invention or how people reacted follows and can be quite entertaining to read. The book introduces the concept of invention and innovation that begins with a dream or a need, and requires much imagination, commitment and courage to turn ideas into reality.

Engineered!: Engineering Design at Work by Shannon Hunt, illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock (2017) / Canada / Author is Canadian, illustrator is Australian

People are faced with challenging problems everyday and it’s often up to engineers to find solutions. The book covers nine different types of engineering: aerospace, biomedical, chemical, mechanical, electrical, civil, geomatics, computer, and environmental. It explores several real world problems and explains how people used the engineering design process to brainstorm, develop, create and test various solutions. “If existing technology won’t solve the problem, engineers create new technology, such as a machine that prints skin substitutes for burn victims.” Examples such as the Mars Rover ‘Curiosity’ landed on Mars, and how geomatic engineers are helping to save caribou herds are explained in the book. It entices readers to appreciate the art of engineering through its phases –  defining the problem, investigating requirements, developing and comparing solutions, creating, testing, optimizing, sharing. The book also utilises infographics to indicate various design processes of engineering – comparing solutions, optimizing.

Ever wondered what’s beneath our feet? What amazing innovation and engineering are applied to explore and benefit from the layers of our Earth? With fantastic illustrations that show pockets of things happening beneath our feet, the book examines the geology and biodiversity while weaving in literary, historical, and archaeological information. It also covers diverse subjects, from paleontology to archaeology, from mythology to ancient civilizations and from engineering to agriculture.


Catherine Bae is an ES Teacher-Librarian at The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL). She is a 1.5 generation Korean-Australian, who has been teaching internationally for the past 15 years in South Korea, Taiwan, Qatar, and now the evergreen country of Malaysia.  (Twitter: @catfeinatedTL)

Note: all the books highlighted during this month of SDGs can be found on this GLLI Goodreads shelf.

What are your favorite books for SDG Goal 9: Innovation, Industries & Infrastructure? Please share them in the comments. Let’s make this a conversation and work on the goal together.

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