Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates

Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates

by 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

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Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Wooldridge's picture book traces the development of the National Road in the United States. The author explains how the road began as a means to travel smoothly from the Eastern United States to the Ohio River. As time passed and demand for a longer route grew, it expanded across Indiana and through part of Illinois. Unless readers have prior knowledge of the road's history, it can be difficult to determine whether characters like John Slack are fictional or real. Wooldridge interjects the public's positive and negative opinions regarding the road's development and describes how the inventions of the steam engine and automobile influenced changes in the highway, which ultimately became Route 40 and crossed the country. As the story winds down, Wooldridge raises the problem of air pollution. Her folksy, conversational writing style incorporates flavorful language such as "dang," "newfangled," and "citified." The unexpected conclusion refers to "a pack of crazy thinkers" with ideas on cars powered by corn, fuel cells, and electricity. Muscular horses, changing modes of transportation, and caricatured people populate the bright artwork. Humorous touches include a "SKUNK HAVEN" exit sign. It can be difficult to locate nonfiction children's materials on this subject; Just Fine the Way They Are helps fill a void.—Lynn Vanca, Freelance Librarian, Akron, OH
Kirkus Reviews

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)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590787106
Publisher:
Highlights Press
Publication date:
03/01/2011
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
1,402,823
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
AD1030L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 9 Years

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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