The Children’s Book Review | March 19, 2017
The Children’s Book Review: Which five words best describe Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly Into the Twentieth Century?
Sue Macy: Bumpy
Can you share one highlight from Motor Girls with our readers?
I love the story of Alice Ramsey, the first woman to drive a car across the United States. I live in Englewood, New Jersey, and she was from Hackensack, just two towns over. In 1909, she was 22 years old when she and three female friends climbed into a 30-horsepower Maxwell DA touring car in New York and headed to San Francisco across mostly unpaved roads. Ramsey made all the repairs to her car herself and photographs show how confident and proud she was on the journey.
What has been the best reaction from a reader, so far?
The best reaction—it’s still fairly early—was the first one, from Virginia Scharff, our consultant. Virginia literally wrote the book on this topic. Her scholarly book, Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of The Motor Age, from 1991, was the inspiration for Motor Girls. She was gracious enough to offer to look over my manuscript and she had only one change, a small phrase in the Introduction. The rest of her critique was very positive and it was so gratifying to read.
Why do you think kids should read non-fiction books?
Nonfiction is the key to understanding the world around you. Whether it’s science or history or even a book of sports statistics, nonfiction gives you context for the life you’re leading. There’s nothing I like more than sharing the stories of real people who did extraordinary things under challenging circumstances. The people I write about are role models for me, and hopefully for my readers as well.
What’s on your nightstand? Any books?
A telephone, a clock radio, a TV remote control, a lamp, and a copy of Have I Got a Story for You: More Than a Century of Fiction from the Forward. It’s a collection of short stories translated from one of New York’s Yiddish-language newspapers than I’m reading for a new project.
For your writing energy: sugar or salt, tea or coffee?
Definitely iced tea, with raw sugar, none of that artificial stuff. But I also snack on oat bran sesame chips, so I guess I go for salt and sugar.
Writing tools: computer, pen and paper, or all of the above?
Computer, preferably a desktop, but I use a laptop on research trips. I think better when I write on a computer. I can’t write fast enough to capture my thoughts with pen and paper and it’s much easier to rearrange things on a computer.
Can you tell us something that even your most loyal fans may not know about you?
I love musical theater and wish I had the talent to write the music for a show.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I had fun creating my (auto)biography for the flap copy of Motor Girls. It’s literally a list, in order, of the automobiles I’ve owned. This wouldn’t work for my young adult readers, but for parents, teachers, librarians, etc., I think it’s an interesting way to look at your life. For example my cars—mainly Honda Accords, with a Toyota and a Subaru thrown in, shows that I go for function over flash, live on a freelancer’s budget, and seem to like Japanese cars. I think that’s because I fit better in them. When I was younger, American cars were big and boxy, and I wanted something that would give me a better feeling of control.
Written by Sue Macy
Foreword by Danica Patrick
Publisher’s Synopsis: Come along for a joy ride in this enthralling tribute to the daring women – Motor Girls, as they were called at the turn of the century – who got behind the wheel of the first cars and paved the way for change. The automobile has always symbolized freedom, and in this book we meet the first generation of female motorists who drove cars for fun, profit, and to make a statement about the evolving role of women. From the advent of the auto in the 1890s to the 1920s when the breaking down of barriers for women was in full swing, readers will be delighted to see historical photos, art, and artifacts and to discover the many ways these progressive females influenced fashion, the economy, politics, and the world around them.
Ages 10-12 | Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1426326974
About Sue Macy
SUE MACY is the author of Bulls-Eye: A Photobiography of Annie Oakley; Swifter, Higher, Stronger: A Photographic History of the Summer Olympics; Freeze Frame: A Photographic History of the Winter Olympics; Play Like A Girl: A Celebration of Women in Sports; Winning Ways: A Photohistory of American Women in Sports; and A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. She brings a consciousness of the history of women in sport to the story of sharpshooter Annie Oakley and carries this mythic and historic figure gracefully into modern light. She has won numerous awards and starred reviews for her books. Winning Ways and A Whole New Ball Game were both named ALA Best Books for Young Adults and NCSS-CBC Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies.
This speed interview with Sue Macy, author of Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly Into the Twentieth Century, was conducted by Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with 20th Century, Cars, Transportation, Women’s History and Speed Interview.