Friday, March 23, 2018

Fact Friday and review: Bertha Takes a Drive by Jan Adkins

Bertha Takes a Drive: how the Benz automobile changed the world by Jan Adkins. Charlesbridge, October, 2017. 9781580896962. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

I don't know about you, but when I think road trip, I think traveling hundreds, if not many hundreds of miles. Way back in the late 1880s, in the infancy of motorcar development, Bertha's big drive was a whopping sixty miles and that took most of the day.

In 1888 in Mannheim, Germany, Karl Benz invented a motorcar but both the kaiser and the church were against the idea and banned them. Bertha Benz decided to test drive her husband's invention despite the ban. She enlisted the aid of her two teen-age sons and drove to her mother's farm. Roads back then were dirt, winding and bumpy used by farmers to drive farm animals and ride horses. 

The motorcar broke down many times along the way but Bertha, rolled up her sleeves and did the needed repairs every time. Having worked at her husband's side during the development of the motorcar, Bertha was well-equipped to understand the nature of the breakdowns. As the world's first test driver, she also dealt with some unanticipated glitches in her husband's invention. She showed resilience and perseverance as well as some inventor ingenuity of her own when she unclogged the fuel line with a hat pin or fixed the burning brakes by installing shoe leather.

The engaging illustrations are filled with fun little details for eagle-eyed readers and are richly colored. I found it surprising to learn that they were done digitally. Backmatter consists of a timeline of the evolution of the automobile, schematic paintings of the engine and how it works and an author's note that also describes some of her research troubles. 

Bertha Takes a Drive would make for a fun read aloud and discussion. Give it to your car fans and your STEM teachers and display it during Women's History Month.

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