Sunday, September 28, 2014
Wheels of Change
Jacobson, Darlene Beck. Wheels of Change
September 23rd 2014 by Creston Books
Emily loves hanging out in her father's shop, and enjoys talking to Henry, the blacksmith. Her father has just made a carriage for Sousa, and has been commissioned to build one for President Roosevelt himself. When Henry becomes very ill, her father has to hire another man, and with the advent of the "horseless carriage", Emily fears for the future of the shop. Emily's mother wishes she would not hang around the forge and enlists her help to put together a tea, for which Emily must improve her baking, not to mention her manners. Emily starts to see more change than just the automobile-- she sees Suffragettes out, goes to a Nickelodeon and sees a woman playing the piano, and sees even more prejudice against black people than she saw when her family chose to visit Henry at his home. In the end, the most pressing problem-- the continuation of her father's business-- is solved, Emily is invited to meet President Roosevelt, and the family decides that they must do what is right even in the face of others' opinions.
Strengths: There is not a lot of fiction set during this period of history (1901-09) when there was a lot of social change occurring. This is well researched and based on the author's own family history. Lots of different topics of the day are presented.
Weaknesses: If all of the girls back in history fought against the restrictive social mores of the time, women would have been fully emancipated in about 1600. I can only compare this against Anne of Green Gables (1908), wherein Anne might have struggled against the status quo but always felt bad about challenging it. In most fiction, girls are portrayed as feeling put upon by having to behave like ladies, and I'm not sure this was as widespread a problem as fiction leads us to believe. I also wonder if the racial prejudices would have played out in real life in the way they were portrayed in the book.