________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 18 . . . . April 27, 2007


From Boneshakers to Choppers: The Rip-Roaring History of Motorcycles.

Lisa Smedman.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2007.
120 pp., pbk. & cl., $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (cl.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-015-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-016-0 (cl.).

Subject Heading:
Motorcycles-History-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by David Ward.

***½ /4

Motorcycles often evoke images of excitement and passion. As a teacher, I have watched students (boys in particular) picking a magazine with a motorcycle or dirt bike on the cover as their reading choice. The Guinness World Book of Records has also been a source for enthusiasts to explore trivia about the fastest motorcycles, the longest jumps, and greatest tricks. Lisa Smedman's From Boneshakers to Choppers combines much of these elements in a well-organized, neatly framed historical overview.

     Chapter titles and headings support the very accessible text and lead the reader from the motorcycles conception to lifestyles that accompany riding. The introduction provides an excellent tease, encouraging the reader to look a little deeper into the story of this remarkable invention. A young teen banking through a corner on his trail bike smiles back from a colour photo on one page while opposite an old newspaper reveals the wild sport of motorcycle polo. Colour textboxes draw the reader's attention to supporting examples of the text oftentimes demonstrating a particular fact or event such as the Mexico City Police drill team performing stunts in 1928. The author has also wisely included random facts for the "Info-kids" such as the bizarre death of Sylvester Roper, the first recorded heart attack while driving a motorcycle.  

     Stop boxes are another interesting feature of this book. Coded with a stop sign, they encourage readers to pause in their reading of the main text and explore an example from history. "During World War I motorcycles were used like tractors to pull small-caliber artillery, and to patrol telephone and radio lines to search for breaks in the wire."

     Photographs, old posters and advertisements, newspaper clippings, and magazine covers provide a successful array of examples for readers to look at. Chapters have also been colour coded which makes for easier transition and perusing of material.

     From Boneshakers to Choppers is an excellent resource for classrooms and individual student projects. There is some young adult content in certain chapters, particularly chapter 6 which focuses on the inception of motorcycle gangs (specifically, biker gang names such as "Pissed Off Bastards" or an historical reference to accusations of rape). The text does not highlight these areas but rather mentions them by way of fact.  

Highly Recommended.

David Ward is a children's author and researcher at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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