April 08, 2014

The Tweedles Go Electric

by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Marie Lafrance
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
Released March 2014

With Earth Day 2014 soon upon us, and the world seemingly looking towards the future for greener technologies, Monica Kulling shows us that green was in our past and maybe we didn't always recognize it for its worth.  In The Tweedles Go Electric, the reader is taken back to the turn of the century–19th to 20th, that is–when the environment may not have been a focus but some wise people were looking beyond the popular when it came to transportation.

The Tweedles, an endearing family of Papa, Mama, twelve-year-old Franny and eight-year-old Frankie, are considered old-fashioned, even fuddy-duddies, because they still get around by walking or cycling, with an occasional foray into the country by horse and cart.  But everything changes (or does it?) with Papa's announcement that, "We're going modern.  We're buying a car!"

They buy a smart car.  A green car.  An electric car!  The family members' reactions to the new purchase are as varied as could be expected.  Papa is excited, though somewhat intimidated and needs to get used to it.  Mama is thrilled, just like Frankie, always having wanted a car.  Only the cerebral Franny takes it all in stride, less than engaged with their new purchase.  As with anything new and different, there are the critics.  However, when an emergency arises, the smart, green car impresses more than a few as to its indubitable value. 

The versatile Monica Kulling will delight readers with this newest book, just as she has with her illustrated biographies such as In the Bag! and Making Contact!, and her picture books of Mister Dash and Lumpito.  The text is fresh and lively, no matter whether the voice of a Tweedle or a salesperson or neighbour.  I love these Tweedles!  Marie Lafrance embodies her characters with the normalcy of members of a functional family but still with familial foibles and their own personalities. And the setting will easily transport the reader to a different time and capture that atmosphere of invention and growth.  With much kindness and no preaching, the Tweedles take the message of progress and fashion beyond the here and now (or there and then), and into the realm of open possibilities.

There is always a morsel of delightful learning in Monica Kulling's books, as there is in The Tweedles Go Electric. A little research reveals a plethora of electric cars were available in the early 1900's. In fact, in 1900 U.S., an astounding 38% of automobiles were powered by electricity. (1) Even though most of the vehicles were steam- or gasoline-powered at the time, and everyone's love of the automobile seemed to include the noise, consumption and pollution, it's easy to appreciate those who could see outside the box and open themselves to those new, albeit few, options. Definitely how we should always be seeing, wouldn't you say?

(1) Retrieved from http://www.edisontechcenter.org/ElectricCars.html on April 6, 2014.

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