JUST FINE THE WAY THEY ARE

Wooldridge’s story of America’s land-transportation networks—its roadways and railways—is folksy but panoramic. The informal, affable tone, something like a movie voice-over, works well here, conveying a sweeping amount of material—over a lot of ground and 200 years—as it chugs merrily along, hitting the high points, while Walz provides heroic imagery with a Thomas Hart Benton tang. The narrative proceeds chronologically, with paths and post roads being replaced by the National Road, which is trumped by the railroads, which in turn is transcended by “wheelmen” (bicyclists) and, more importantly, by the automobile. Intriguing players and institutions are introduced—Peter Cooper, Lucius Stockton, Henry Ford, Tom Thumb, the B&O Railroad and the Good Intent Stagecoach line—though because of the survey nature of the book, they are more food for thought than fleshed out (a good timeline and bibliography at the end of the book helps point readers toward further information). Fittingly, the story has got real rhythm to it, helped along by the refrain—“Things were just fine the way they were,” thought those who benefited from a soon-to-be-diminished carrier—but most of all by capturing the surging, ever-evolving nature of the country’s transportation network. As the book closes, it is clear that the system continues to evolve—unpredictably, perhaps, but inexorably. (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59078-710-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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The whimsy is slight—the story is not—and both its interest and its vocabulary are for the youngest members of this age...

THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE

Beverly Cleary has written all kinds of books (the most successful ones about the irrepressible Henry Huggins) but this is her first fantasy.

Actually it's plain clothes fantasy grounded in the everyday—except for the original conceit of a mouse who can talk and ride a motorcycle. A toy motorcycle, which belongs to Keith, a youngster, who comes to the hotel where Ralph lives with his family; Ralph and Keith become friends, Keith gives him a peanut butter sandwich, but finally Ralph loses the motorcycle—it goes out with the dirty linen. Both feel dreadfully; it was their favorite toy; but after Keith gets sick, and Ralph manages to find an aspirin for him in a nearby room, and the motorcycle is returned, it is left with Ralph....

The whimsy is slight—the story is not—and both its interest and its vocabulary are for the youngest members of this age group. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 1965

ISBN: 0380709244

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1965

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Laden with retro charm and sly humor, this won’t suit every reader, but fans of fast-paced, far-fetched action will lap it...

LANTERN SAM AND THE BLUE STREAK BANDITS

A talking cat with a penchant for problem-solving and self-reflection, a clever kidnapping-cum–jewel heist, a couple of kids and a friendly train conductor all collide in an atmospheric late-1930s adventure with old-time cinematic appeal.

Mystery author Beil returns to his Ohio roots with a main character, 10-year-old Henry Shipley from Ashtabula, and a climactic scene on board the Blue Streak roller coaster at Conneaut Lake Park. The bulk of the action, however, takes place on a train. Henry, an observant, artistic child, narrates while the eponymous Lantern Sam, a male calico, inserts chapters detailing his own earlier life and frequent narrow escapes. Both boy and cat are drawn into the mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of Ellie Strasbourg, a wealthy young girl. The author balances his parallel narratives relatively well, though Sam’s story takes some unexpected directions, as when he details the danger posed by his brief flirtation with an older, female cat named Marmalade. The epilogue, written by an elderly Henry, makes sense of the occasionally arch, adult-sounding tone, but some readers may struggle to keep track of the multiple subplots and several sets of secondary (stock) characters.

Laden with retro charm and sly humor, this won’t suit every reader, but fans of fast-paced, far-fetched action will lap it up as enthusiastically as Sam swallows his favorite brand of sardines . (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-75317-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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