08 September 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Just Fine the Way They Are by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

History books for kids are usually very narrowly focused. They take a look at one snippet in time and unfortunately, they usually don’t go very in depth on their subject matter. I was afraid that “Just Fine the Way They Are” was going to fall into this same trap, but even worse. A history of transportation in the United States spanning 200 years? I envisioned pretty pictures with little text. I was very happy to be surprised!

The illustrations are indeed very pretty. Each page captures not only the time in history that it represents but also the energy and excitement of change. While many characters in the book are quoted as “Things are just fine, why should they change?” They are always, thankfully, in the minority and progress marches on. I love how the pictures often span two pages, adding a sort of “epic” feel to the text as you read about both the reasoning for change and the opposition.

The writing is also top notch. Both sides are represented: both those wanting things to stay the same and those proponents for change. I love how the book ended with both the facts about how we have changed our world and why we need to continue to develop new transportation technology.

I look forward to presenting this in my classroom. This will make a great crossover between social studies and science as we look at how transportation has affected our world.

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 Woolbridge 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.

Rating: ★★★★★

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