Chris Oxlade Author Biography Essay

A quick ramble through the history of transport, from camels and chariots to driverless cars.

Beginning with shank’s mare (“People simply walked”), Oxlade navigates his topic by transportation type: from a horse-drawn travois to big trucks and small sports cars, from steam trains to maglevs, log rafts to cruise ships, the Wright brothers’ Flyer to the International Space Station—with pauses along the way to take ganders at motorcycles, submersibles, helicopters, and hot air balloons. Though he sails past “caravels” and “carracks” without explaining their differences he does wheel out definitions for “penny-farthing” and “quad bike” (which American readers will recognize as an ATV), and he also gives passing nods to the Montgolfiers and other inventors. The figures in Haslam’s bright, cartoon illustrations tend toward caricatures, which fly a bit low with a stereotypically dressed Mexican man chasing a mule but generally add a pleasantly breezy air. Some of the bike riders, pilots, astronauts, and subway passengers have darker skin. The vehicles themselves are stylized but recognizable, which is a good thing because closing quizzes challenge viewers to identify 13 of them and to answer a set of questions too. The jacket folds out into a poster that depicts many of the modes of transit covered, with a submersible at the bottom and a futuristic rocket ship at the top.

A spirited road trip over land and sea, through the air, into space, and a bit beyond the present day. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

This oversized book comprises not pages but a 6 1/2–foot-wide foldout poster, with illustrations of 100 iconic aircraft, spacecraft, trains, cars, bikes and boats.

Vehicles range from the earliest mechanized transportation, such as the 1829 steam-powered Rocket, through cars such as the Bugatti Royale and the E-Type Jaguar to futuristic vehicles such as Virgin Galactic’s passenger-carrying SpaceShipTwo and the ENV fuel-cell motorcycle. The vehicles are arranged more or less in chronological order and have clearly been chosen for their special contributions to design or technological innovation. Ten key events or technological developments are listed on the inside of the cover.Transportation buffs will enjoy the attention to detail in Lemanski’s elegant illustrations, but those steeped in the subject may also be irritated by stylistic inaccuracies in some of the drawings, such as the shape of the 1959 Austin Mini. Detailed descriptions keyed to each vehicle are included on the back of the poster. This has the obvious drawback of rendering the captions invisible if readers want to take advantage of the poster format to display on a wall; completists will wish that the descriptions had been positioned immediately adjacent to the illustrations. The relatively flimsy card-stock binding will likely not stand up to heavy use.

Nevertheless, a valuable reference tool, a solid contribution to the literature of technology for teens and blissful eye candy for transportation enthusiasts. (Nonfiction. 6-14)

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