#63 – Just Fine the Way They Are by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

5 Stars

Mr. John Slack, the keeper of the tavern beside a rutted dirt road in the early 1800s, thought things were just fine the way they were.  So did Lucious Stockyon, who ran the National Road Stage Company in the mid-1800s.  So too, 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 innovative, 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 richly-rendered paintings capture the broad seep and the individual impact of the change and progress.”

Just Fine the Way They Are:  From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates” will have kids (mostly boys), glued to the pages.  It is laid-back enough to keep a young kid’s attention while having the information to explain how The United States has developed its transportation system.  The theme of travel being “just fine,” meaning ‘no need to change what we are use to for some new fangled thing I won’t like,’ is wonderful.  Even today, that attitude prevails, especially if the change is a big one.  Yet, when the “new fangled” thing was built, the country was better able to move around, and at a time when the West was expanding.  Today, an interstate or highway connects nearly every city and town in America.

I understand the attitude of “just fine.”  Today, in a pocket or purse, nearly everyone carries a cell phone– except me.  Sure, I own one, only after getting a flat tired late at night.  Yet, I do not carry it around, because I am “just fine” with my landline.  I do not see the need for twenty-four hour phone access.  Yet, look what cell phones now do for people.  Time saved, important calls not missed, and the Internet, and all that has to offer, is at one’s fingertips.  The same occurred with the roads.  The guy who owns a business by the dirt road doesn’t think a railroad is needed or the Interstate, yet most people are better off for having those.  This book does a great job of explaining the prevailing attitudes and the progress made on the roads in America.

The illustrations are terrific, colorful and accurate.   I can see a little boy infatuated with cars and trains drooling over the pictures.  Just Fine the Way They Are is a good book for the classroom, a book report, and for story-time.  With this book, you are also going to get two stories for the price of one.  The first is the important history of the Interstate system.  The second, more amusing, is the “just fine” attitude of the old versus the new.  What about you?  Do you like things Just the Way They Are?

Just Fine the Way They Are

Author:  Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
Illustrator:  Richard Watz
Publisher:  Calkins Creek
Number of Pages:  32
ISBN:  978-1-59078-710-6