The Boy Who Thought Outside the Box: The Story of Video Game Inventor Ralph Baer

The Boy Who Thought Outside the Box: The Story of Video Game Inventor Ralph Baer

By Author / Illustrator

Marcie Wessels, Beatriz Castro


Biographies & Autobiographies

Age range(s)



Sterling Publishing Co Inc








Obsessed with Wii, Nintendo, X-Box, and PlayStation? Meet the inventor whose work made them all possible: Ralph Baer, creator of the first home video game system!

Today, the video game industry keeps growing, with ever more platforms available to fans. But how did the very first system come about? This picture-book biography of Ralph Baer, whose family fled Nazi Germany for the US, introduces kids to a great inventor AND the birth of the first home console. Using wartime technology, Baer thought outside the box and transformed the television into a vehicle for gaming; Baer's invention, the Odyssey, is a precursor to the Atari gaming system. Today, interactive systems like Wii and PlayStation are descendants of Ralph's innovative 'Brown Box,' making this award-winning inventor the true 'Father of Video Games.'



The Boy Who Thought Outside The Box is an inspiring story of a boy called Ralph Baer who never takes things at face value. He always sees things as having more potential and considers alternative uses of objects that the rest of us take for granted.

The story is a fiction book told through a picture book style with some wonderful illustrations by Beatriz Castro, which depict each part of the story extremely well. So much so that my six year old can retell the story to a high degree of accuracy without reading a single word!

The story tells of how Ralph Baer grew up in Germany as a Jewish boy at a time when fear and hatred was growing towards Jews and other groups that Hitler disliked. We follow Ralph as he starts to be forced to spend much more time inside for his safety and eventually flees Germany to live in New York. After improving the efficiency of his family's ability to produce leather goods, learning to build a radio, being drafted into the army and returning to America to work in a lab designing televisions, Ralph's curiosity and ability to think outside of the box never waivers.

Soon he has a ground-breaking idea on how TV sets could be used for something far more interesting. This is the start of an uphill struggle to get important people to back his ideas. This is the origin story of the very first video game.

I absolutely love this book: very factual, engaging and above all, inspiring. Anyone who has an interest in video games or inventions should read this one. My son loved it and it made him want to reconfigure some of his own construction sets. I also think that the section at the back which suggests additional reading is a genius idea. It isn't just suggestions from the author to purchase more of her own books but a way of immersing more people in the subject as a whole and this has led us to make an additional purchase as well.

Thank you, Marcie Wessels and Beatriz Castro, this one is a lovely change from the normal picture book genre and a pleasure to read with my children. Furthermore, this book could be used in schools alongside teaching about the war and might be an aspect of that time that could engage more children. I would recommend this book to children aged 5 and upwards.

48 pages / Ages 5-12 years / Reviewed by James Hewish, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 7+


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