From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates

I am a fan of children’s books, they are far more complex to create that many people realize. It is the one genre of books where the reader is not the purchaser. It is often the parent or grandparent doing the buying. A key factor in a children’s book is its educational content. A child’s book is a learning tool.

I was drawn to Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge’s latest book Just Fine The Way They Are because the author had decided to create the book specifically for the educational field. Rather than focus on soft social skills that so many children’s authors do she explores a very key part of modern American history, the development of our transportation system.

I just knew that I had to get my hands on this book. I joke with friends that history is wasted on the young, and by the time you appreciate it you are too old to have applied the lessons learned. Was it possible to turn a complex and very political part of history into an illustrated and entertaining book for young readers?

The answer is a resounding YES!

Richard Walz is the illustrator and he does deserve credit. He has done a spectacular job of bringing the story to life through his art. In fact I would love to see them framed adorning a wall (preferably mine)! This man has a true talent for capturing a moment in time.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge deserves even greater credit. She has taken a hugely complex piece of history and turned it into a simple and very entertaining story.

Connie takes us back to 1805 and we meet tavern owner John Slack. John’s tavern is at the top of a hill beside a very busy rutted dirt track. Business could not be better, travelers weary from the horse drawn and uncomfortable journey stop at the tavern to eat, drink, and often spend the night. For John Slack things are ‘Just Fine The Way They Are’. Of course weary travelers were not quite as enthusiastic. Bumpy, rutted and often muddy conditions made the journey long and uncomfortable.

From this jump off point Connie takes on a journey of discovery, The development of the ‘National Highway’, well at least ‘national’ if you lived in the east. The rise of the railroad system. The lowly bicycle, the Model T Ford, and the development of the Interstate highway system, the author manages to touch on all of these subjects in an entertaining and educational way in just a very few words.

Each development had its detractors saying that things are ‘Just Fine The Way They Are‘, and an ever growing number of people saying No they are Not!

Connie ends this book in a most thought provoking way. Are things just fine the way they are today? Is our dependence on Oil good or bad?

There is no doubt about it, Just Fine The Ways Things Are is a very wonderful book. In some ways parents can learn as much from reading this as can their children.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge is a teacher by trade, and a teacher by nature. I was exploring her website and found a wonderful adjunct to the book. She has created a section for educators and parents that offers advice on ways that you can use this book to its full advantage.

OK, I do have one criticism however. I am sure that most parents have seen that awful TV ad for ‘Hooked on Phonics’, well I am hooked on fonts! I think that a more child friendly one such as Ariel would have been better.

That said, this is a very well constructed book. I don’t give stars, but if I did it would score this one a 6 on a scale of 1 to 5.

To purchase your copy of Just Fine The Way Things Are use the Amazon link above.

Simon Barrett

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