Just Fine the Way They Are by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Mr. John Slack, keeper of a tavern beside a rutted road in the early 1800’s, thought things were just fine they way they were. So did Lucius Stockton, who ran the National Road Stage Company in the mid-1800’s. So did the owners of the railroads when the first Model T appeared in 1908. The need to move around the United States more quickly, more comfortably, and, now, more “greenly” means things will never be just fine the way they are.”
I did not read that summary before I read the book (maybe I should have). I opened up the book and fell in love. The illustrations are amazing. The story is fun, educational, and historical. I love it when children’s books authors add history and make it interesting. I don’t know if all the people the book highlights really lived, or if they are just fictional, but the historical facts are supposed to be accurate. It’s a fun way to portray the evolution of transportation in the United States. I thought it would be a great tool for parents and teachers. I loved it! I was very excited to read it to my kids…..
….Until I got to the second to last page. And then I got so sad. And a little angry. The book takes a sad turn when it goes political on the second to last page. Oh, I can’t tell you how sad it made me. After looking at all these happy, light, airy illustrations, this page is dark and ugly.
Sorry, just let me stand up on my soapbox for a minute: I do not care what political affiliation you are. I don’t care who you vote for or campaign for. I don’t care what side your opinion of the political arena falls in. As an adult, I don’t care. I’m a big girl and I can listen to what you have to say and weigh the issues. I can take that information and make up my own mind. Unfortunately, children do not have that power. Children are influenced by everything around them, for good or bad. They do not have the power to look at the facts and make up their own minds. That is why politics should be left OUT of all children’s literature and movies. I find it very distasteful to try and slip a political agenda into a picture book. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a political agenda I agree with or disagree with, it should be left out. I would have been completely fine with Ms. Wooldridge skipping the second to last page and leaving in the last page. Both those pages are heavy in sarcasm, which children do not understand, but the last page is ok. Concluding with how the transportation we have now will probably not be what we always have is fine, and true. Even saying how we should not be the ones holding back the innovation would be fine. Unfortunately, she did not do that. She had to ruin this great book by adding her political views.
Will I read this to my children? Yes because 97% of it is fabulous. However, I will be skipping the second to last page, and most likely the last page as well. I will just skip over to the timeline in the back, which is a very good resource.
Rating: G Good, clean book, except for the last two pages filled with sarcasm and a political agenda.
Recommendation: 1 and up! The little kids will love the illustrations of the trains and other forms of transportation. My recommendation: skip the second to last page and maybe the last page. Teachers, especially, should stay away from the politics in this book. If my child came home from school touting something political he had learned from a picture book I would not be very happy.
I wish I had a better review for this book because the beginning is so great!