The legions of kids who idolize today's NASCAR drivers may find it hard to believe that the notion of racing automobiles-originally known as horse-less carriages-began back in 1895 in Chicago. In the first work he has written as well as illustrated, Dooling (The Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin) harnesses kids' fascination with cars to deliver a period curio. An introductory historical note sets the scene, describing the vehicles, drivers and the race's genesis (the Chicago Times-Herald wished to prove that horse-less carriages could outperform the traditional horse and carriage). From there, readers join cheering bystanders who watch Oscar Mueller's Benz, Frank Duryea's "buggyaut" and Jerry O'Conner's Macy wagon; of the 79 carriages entered, only six started the race, and only these three stayed in it beyond the first miles. Dooling imagines the drivers' emotions and thoughts as they struggle through snow and cold on a 52-mile course (the winner crossed the finish line after 10 hours, 23 minutes). Dooling's copious research is evident in his attention to detail. His oil paintings, rendered predominantly in grays, whites and blacks, skillfully evoke the era via period clothing and accurate reproductions of the vehicles. Slow-and-steady pacing and the occasional unexpected detour/setback similarly reflect the historical record, but the relatively sluggish course of the race also slackens the narrative tension. Ages 6-10. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-In 1895, a Chicago newspaper sponsored the first automobile race, a 52-mile "dash" across the city's environs that took nearly 11 hours. Only 6 of the 69 entrants made it to the starting line; the others dropped out because of mechanical problems and the weather-snow with nearly two-foot drifts. Of the carriages, two ran on batteries, the others were gasoline-powered; only Frank Duryea's "buggyaut" was completely built in America, and hand-tuned by its owner. Despite a broken steering lever and a misfiring sparking device, Duryea crossed the finish line after 10 hours and 23 minutes. His average speed: seven miles an hour. In 1896, he and his brother went on to start the Duryea Motor Company. Dooling has lovingly re-created an era in sepias and watercolor washes; his spreads convey the icy dullness of the day, the enthusiasm of the onlookers, and even the "frenzy" of the race. And follow the dog, racing along: "Maybe," the artist suggests, "he was the first to chase a car?" Pair this book with David Weitzman's Model T (Crown, 2002) for a fascinating look at the beginnings of an industry that forever changed the way we live and work.-Dona Ratterree, New York City Public Schools
An 1895 race sponsored by the Chicago Times-Herald to prove that the horseless carriage was the way of the future is the subject of Dooling's (Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog's Tale, p. 886, etc.) latest offering, the first he's both written and illustrated. He begins by introducing each car that participated in the race, the drivers and the umpires/passengers charged with enforcing the rules. Seventy-nine vehicles pledged to participate, but on the day of the race, only six showed up, including two electric cars (the night before, a storm blanketed the city with a foot of snow). Initially rendered in black and white, Dooling's illustrations have the look and feel of old photographs; as the race unfolds, he introduces hints of color in full-bleed spreads that stretch across the page to convey the cars' swift motion. As breakdowns and other delays occur, Dooling slows the pace by redirecting action to the left of the spread. History buffs and car lovers will appreciate this faithful account. Dooling's depiction of industrial age fashion is spot-on and, as the author's note explains, much of the telling is based on primary sources, including a journal one of the umpires used to record the race. Back matter also explains what happened after the race: winner Frank Duryea started the Duryea Motor Company in 1896, predating Henry Ford by seven years. (Picture book. 4-8)