CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 27. . . .March 14, 2014
Groundwood Books has produced a charming story about the early twentieth century advent of a technology that would change the world.
The Tweedles family consists of four members, each with clearly described character traits. Mr. Tweedles is a straightforward man of sober second thought. His wife is a cheery, energetic sort. Son Francis, or Frankie, is a boy who loves movement and anything with wheels while his sister Frances (Franny) always has her nose in a book. (“Like most girls, she is more interested in higher education.”)
The automobile is beginning to make its mark on society: it is 1903 after all. The Tweedles have so far been resistant, walking and cycling around their clean little town.
But now Papa has decided the time has come to buy a car, and not just any car. They will buy what turns out to be the only electric car in town. Papa assures them it is safe, and salesman Mister Mo says it is so easy to drive that a kid could do it. The car is, symbolically and with some foreshadowing, painted green.
The first outing in the new vehicle shows the Tweedles in a maelstrom of slow-moving traffic, for this is a time when there are “no signs or lines” on the streets, and “all kinds of wheels pack the road and go wherever they find a way.” The electric car is an object of derision to drivers of cars with internal combustion and steam engines. But family members all declare it to be a successful, if somewhat alarmingly novel, addition to their lives.
The ‘green’ car and Frances come to the rescue when a neighbour, whose car is out of gas, needs a ride to the doctor. Since even a kid can drive this car, Franny does and earns the gratitude of Mr. Hamm the butcher, and his wife. Not only that, but the crisis sparks an interest in driving in both Tweedles children. Franny later pilots an electric car from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and Frankie becomes race car driver. Papa, as it transpires, decides he still prefers his bicycle!
Author Monica Kulling is a prolific author of children’s books, notably the “Great Ideas” series. Here, her descriptive text and droll asides serve a story with an old-fashioned feel well.
Marie Lafrance began her career as a commercial artist but has illustrated a number of picture books, particularly in the French language. She has used coloured pencil and mixed-media collage in muted tones to depict the era, using slightly exaggerated human figures and interesting perspectives
The Tweedles Go Electric is recommended for most public and primary school library collections.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.
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