Wheels of Change Review



Wheels of Change by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People Selection, 2015

Mighty Girl Books Selection, 2014

Creston Books, 2014. 978-1939547132

Synopsis: Emily likes things the way they are: her father has a successful carriage business, she gets to help out in the carriage barn sometimes with Henry the blacksmith, and she really likes spending time with her friend Charlie. But with Ford Model Ts becoming more popular and Henry getting sick, Emily wonders what will happen to her father’s business. Plus, her mother wants her to learn how to bake pies and cakes and host teas and do other ‘lady-like’ things. With all of this change going on around her, will Emily find a way to keep something the same?

Why I picked it up: I had the privilege of meeting the author at the American Library Association conference and talking with her a little bit about the book. Check out the “Between the Pages” post for more about the book and a chance to win a copy of the book!

Why I finished it: Historical fiction can be kind of a tricky thing: it requires dedicated research and the ability of the author to create a connection between time period/subject and the reader. Jacobson does both masterfully, crafting an inspiring story around a piece of her personal family history. The novel transports the reader back to the early 20th Century to a time of social change, progress, and racial intolerance. The author has created for us a strong heroine in Emily, whose courage and conviction endears us to her and her family. We see her struggle with wanting to do what she wants versus giving in to the societal norms for women; and in many ways, these are struggles the reader shares. Like Emily, there are aspects of the world that don’t make sense to us which we try to understand. We have hopes and dreams to which we aspire that keep fueling our desire to do bigger and better things. The reader is able to experience history through the well-paced narrative and dive deeper into the how and why of where we have come from and perhaps draw parallels to where we are going. It inspires the reader to do their own research into their personal histories and imagine the kind of lives and challenges our ancestors faced. It’s a thoughtful novel that challenges us to think about what matters to us and teaches us that nothing is impossible until we give up.

Other related materials: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis; The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis; The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis; Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper; Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko; A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck; Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos; Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith; The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley; Dash by Kirby Larson; Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai; One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia; P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia; Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia; Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales books by Nathan Hale; El Deafo by Cece Bell


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