Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Just Fine the Way They Are

Just Fine the Way They Are
By: Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
Illustrated By: Richard Walz
ISBN: 9781590787106
Format: Hardcover

My Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads’ Synopsis: Change. Who needs it? We do! Mr. John Slack, the keeper of a tavern beside a rutted dirt road in the early 1800s, thought things were just fine the way they were. So did Lucius Stockton who ran the National Road Stage Company in the mid 1800s. So too, did the owners of the railroads when the first model T appeared in 1908. Yet with each new innovation, Americans were able to move around the country more quickly, efficiently, and comfortably. Connie Wooldridge offers an informative, yet light-hearted look at how the dirt roads of the early 1800s evolved into the present-day U.S. highway system. Richard Walz's gorgeous paintings capture both the broad sweep and the individual impact of change and progress.

This really is an amazing book. It gives kids a ton of history about the transportation system in the United States, but keeps everything light and fun. It is probably better suited for older elementary age children (My son is six and he started getting distracted about halfway through). His favorite part was the introduction of the steam engine and the race between the engine and the horse drawn cart. It was truly exciting.

While the book does slightly poke fun at both the “old-fashioned” and the new (mostly our persistent resistance to change), it does touch on the subject of pollution and the depletion of our natural resources, largely due to the transportation system. I think it is a great platform to start further discussion with children about innovation as well as how we have changed over the years, in many ways for the worse (in my opinion).

The book itself is large, and the illustrations are big and colorful. I was able to talk with my kids about the illustrations and how they were related to what we were hearing in the story. For instance, when they are building the National Road, we talked about how the road was still dirt (rather than paved), but they were having to dig the big rocks out and smooth it out so the wagons could travel over it safely.

This is another children’s book that is written with some advanced vocabulary. Having a child that reads at an advanced level, I appreciate having these books that are more challenging for him. He learns so much better this way!

I absolutely recommend this book for both its historical content and entertainment! It made me wish for a simpler time….sigh…