The House That Cleaned Itself: The True Story of Frances Gabe's (Mostly) Marvelous Invention

Author: Susan Romberg and Laura Dershewitz
Lower Age: 5
Upper Age: 10
Price: $17.99
Year Added: 2021
Amazon URL:
Book Cover for The House That Cleaned Itself
The House that Cleaned Itself, written by Laura Dershewitz and Susan Romberg and illustrated by Meghan Rader, is a picture book telling the story of Frances Gabe and her self-cleaning house.

This book elegantly tells Frances Gabe's story and also includes an author's note and bibliography, encouraging readers to do their own research and delve further into Gabe's life. This book uses short and accessible words, making it perfect for new and old readers alike. However, younger children could probably benefit from a more experienced reader to help them through some more complicated words. 

The House that Cleaned Itself's title is relatively self-descriptive: the book details Frances Gabe's attempt at designing a self-cleaning house. From creating soap and water sprayers to clean the walls and furniture, tilting the floors of her house to drain water, and creating a special closet to clean and hang her clothes, every bit of Gabe's story is entirely fantastic. Gabe's story is enthralling and presents engineering ideas and the design process in such a gentle but profound way that you do not realize it is happening. This book's strengths lie in presenting the design process; every step is meticulously laid out. The book is somewhat long, so it may be difficult for inexperienced readers to get through the whole thing independently.

Frances Gabe's story is the textbook definition of iterative design. Gabe first identifies criteria (the house must clean itself in various ways) and develops different methods of solving her problem, with the book outlining her thinking and design process. Instead of drains, for instance, Frances Gabe decides to tilt the floor of her house so that water can flow out. While this is only one example, the book goes through every step of Gabe's initial designs and improvements, explaining every step until she arrives at her final self-cleaning house. The House that Cleaned Itself is a fantastic introduction to the design process and intuitively introduces engineering processes while learning about perseverance and hard work. 

Want to shop local? Visit or to support local and independent bookstores. 

Framework Categories

Communication related to Engineering (Comm-Engr)
Processes of Design (POD)
Engineering Thinking (EThink)

Moore, T.J., Glancy, A.W., Tank, K.M., Kersten, J.A., Smith, K.A., & Stohlmann, M.S. (2014). A framework for quality K-12 engineering education: Research and development. Journal of Precollege Engineering Education Research, 4(1), 1-13.