Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstatesby Connie Wooldridge, Richard Walz
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… See more details below
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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.
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)
Meet the Author
Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge is the author of four picture books and a biography for young adults. A former teacher and librarian, she has four grown children and lives with her husband in Richmond, Indiana.
Richard Walz graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has illustrated sixty-three books and has contributed to many others. He has often drawn licensed characters. Recently he's contributed several books to Random House's Step Into Reading series. Dick has always had an affection for railroads, so he enjoyed painting several trains for Just Fine the Way They Are.
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