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JUST FINE THE WAY THEY ARE by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge


by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge & illustrated by Richard Walz

Pub Date: March 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59078-710-6
Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

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)