Monday, August 22, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Wheels of Change: How women rode the bicycle to freedom by Sue Macy

This interesting micro history is full of fascinating tidbits and and packed with period photography and ephemera. But will kids read it?

Macy begins with the invention and gradual improvement of the bicycle, moving naturally into the changes it made in women's lives and society in general, from improved roads to advertising. She looks at the responses from women who encouraged the use of the bicycle for health and independence, from men who felt it made women too independent, and from women who thought it encouraged loose morals. Reactions from police, changes in fashion, professional cyclists and races, every conceivable aspect is addressed here.

The book includes excerpts from newspapers and magazines of the day, photographs, advertising, maps, quotes, and more. There is also a timeline, resources, and index, and sources of quotes and illustrations.

It's not a lengthy book - only 95 pages - and written in a brisk, fast-paced style. Large sections of text are broken up with insets of various information and ephemera, as well as illustrations.

I found it interesting, but how many kids are interested in the history of cycling and its effect on women's rights? I think we're back again to the public vs. school library. When kids check out nonfiction at my library, it's casual; they like animals or sports or books about machines or war, so they check them out. A small portion of circulation is kids who need books for specific assignments; biographies of a certain length, obscure inventors, weird animals, or biomes are the main topics. But kids are reading more challenging nonfiction - especially history, which doesn't circulate much. I fairly sure they're checking out more nonfiction from their school libraries, where they have a closer relationship with the school librarian and more immediate access to materials for assignments.

Verdict: Not a good fit for my library, due to lack of interest, but I would recommend this to a school library, especially a middle school or high school library, or to a large public library.

ISBN: 9781426307621; Published January 2011 by National Geographic; Borrowed from the library


Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Good commentary about the fit of the topic/theme with what usually interests kids and the limited resources afforded libraries. Truth be told, this is not one book that I will take off the shelf and borrow given that I only have eight titles I can borrow from the community library. But yeah, it is interesting regardless. Thanks for sharing this.

Jennifer said...

Ow, I hate limits on library books! I used a library for a while that had a limit of 30 items and it was sooo hard to decide what I would take. I know small libraries have to do this sometimes, but it makes me sad nonetheless.

Tammy Flanders said...

I appreciate for comments about audience. I can see how a school library or a classroom could use this book with great tie-ins between science and social studies.
Thanks for the recommendation.
Apples with Many Seeds

Ana Maria Rodriguez said...

I would like to read this book, but I agree that it seems to appeal more to high middle-grade and high school readers.Thank you for posting today, Jennifer.