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

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 ...

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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.

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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: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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 "Dick" 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's enjoyed painting several trains for Just Fine the Way They Are.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 18, 2011

    Live To Read

    This fun and educational picture book teaches children the history of transportation in America. Beginning with dirt roads and the introduction of the National Road. then ending with a look to the future, Just Fine the Way They Are is an enjoyable way to educate children about how the transportation system connected America. The book takes the reader through the building of the National Road, the creation of railroads, the introduction of automobiles, highways, and interstates. This book ends with a message about the damage these forms of transportation have had on the environment and a hope for cleaner forms of getting around. Just Fine the Way They Are is simply worded with colorful, charming illustrations.


    The author introduces humor into history with characters who vehemently state that "things were just fine the way they were." Luckily, enterprising, inventive Americans thought transportation could be improved. Now, some Americans might not see a need for improvement, but resourceful people are changing transportation again with fuel made from corn and cars powered by batteries. What will come next? Just Fine the Way They Are teaches children to look forward to change and respect the environment. This picture book helps children to imagine a better world and more convenient transportation!


    Any grade school age child would like to read this book. Wonderful illustrations show the history of America in an engaging way. Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates is a lesson full of history, ingenuity, and optimism.

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  • Posted September 17, 2011

    A GREAT READ FOR ALL AGES!JUST FINE THE WAY THEY ARE BY CONNIE NORDHIELM WOOLDRIDGE,WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY RICHARD WALZ...

    JUST FINE THE WAY THEY ARE:FROM DIRT ROADS TO RAIL ROADS TO INTERSTATES by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge,illustrated by Richard Walz is a wonderfully written young adult read with two hundred years of American highway system history and wonderful illustrations. Young and old alike will enjoy this story of read.A great way to help anyone understand our highway system better.A must read for parents,grandparentss,children,teachers,as well as a great learning tool. From 1800's until 2004,sometimes things are "Just Fine the Way They Are". This book was received for review from Bostick Communtications and the author.Details can be found at Calkins Creek ,an imprint of Boyds Mills Press,Inc. and My Book Addiction Reviews.

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  • Posted September 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Perfect blend of information and humor!

    Just Fine the Way They Are tells the story of how the dirt roads in the 1800's became the U.S. highway system of today with beautiful illustrations by Richard Walz. Wooldridge includes a timeline in the back of the book that highlights relevant points such as the construction of the National Road in 1811 and Henry Ford's first Model T in 1908. Also included is a list of Web Sites which are all currently active and quite relevant to the book as well as a list of Places to Visit (such as national railroad museums).

    I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to parents, teachers and young independent readers. I think it would be an appropriate read-aloud book for younger children who have an interest in trains, automobiles, etc. For independent readers, I believe 7-12 would be the perfect ages for this book. I think it would be a great learning tool in the classroom as well. It is a perfect blend of information and humor mixed with lively illustrations.

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Educational and Entertaining!

    Just Fine the Way They Are
    By: Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
    Illustrated By: Richard Walz
    ISBN: 9781590787106
    Format: Hardcover

    My Rating: ?????

    Goodreads' Synopsis: 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.

    This really is an amazing book. It gives kids a ton of history about the transportation system in the United States, but keeps everything light and fun. It is probably better suited for older elementary age children (My son is six and he started getting distracted about halfway through). His favorite part was the introduction of the steam engine and the race between the engine and the horse drawn cart. It was truly exciting.

    While the book does slightly poke fun at both the "old-fashioned" and the new (mostly our persistent resistance to change), it does touch on the subject of pollution and the depletion of our natural resources, largely due to the transportation system. I think it is a great platform to start further discussion with children about innovation as well as how we have changed over the years, in many ways for the worse (in my opinion).

    The book itself is large, and the illustrations are big and colorful. I was able to talk with my kids about the illustrations and how they were related to what we were hearing in the story. For instance, when they are building the National Road, we talked about how the road was still dirt (rather than paved), but they were having to dig the big rocks out and smooth it out so the wagons could travel over it safely.

    This is another children's book that is written with some advanced vocabulary. Having a child that reads at an advanced level, I appreciate having these books that are more challenging for him. He learns so much better this way!

    I absolutely recommend this book for both its historical content and entertainment! It made me wish for a simpler time..sigh.

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