When we had elementary school age boys, the first day of summer — that is the day after the last day of school — was marked by a visit to our public library to sign up for the Summer Reading Game. Each summer there would be a different theme, with different prizes for reading a certain number of pages or listening for a certain number of hours. My boys loved it.
They would check out armfuls of books. We’d go home and we’d read. And read. And read. Within a few days they would complete the game. But the reading would continue.
At least at our library, the Summer Reading Game ends for kids when they graduate from 5th grade. And while our younger son still reads voraciously, our older son lost interest in books at about age 12. He simply couldn’t find books that he wanted to read. He’d read the Harry Potter series. He’d read all of Suzanne Collins. He’d plowed through the super-thick Eragon books. But as a pre-teen, almost all he could find on the shelves were teenage romances and vampires. His reading devolved to Powder, Sports Illustrated and Bike magazines.
Books For Boys
Apparently, finding appealing books for boys, of any age, is a bit of a problem. The Scholastic 2010 Kids and Family Reading Report found that “only 39 percent of boys say reading books for fun is extremely important, versus 62 percent of girls.” This reading gap holds steady as boys and girls become men and women. A 2007 poll by the Associated Press found that women read an average of nine books per year, while men read an average of 5 books per year. Women out-read men in every category, except biography and history.
My friend Jules Older writes children’s book (just one of his talents). When he lived in Vermont, a librarian explained how difficult it was to interest boys in books. So Jules wrote a very short book about snowmobiles. This short book evolved into a longer book about the invention of the Bombardier Snowmobile.
Snowmobile! tells the true story of Joseph-Armand Bombardier. The book begins on a serious note. Joseph-Armand and his wife Yvonne are snowbound in their Canadian home with a gravely ill child. It is 1934 and they have no way to travel to the hospital. Cars can’t go over the snow and no other form of winter transport has yet been invented.
Although the tragic death of his 2 year-old son was the ultimate motivation for inventing the snowmobile, the story goes back to happier times when Joseph-Armand was a creative, inventive boy. Born in Quebec in 1907, Bombardier loved motors and things that go BOOM! He invented a working cannon at age 14, and as a boy he was constantly tinkering and rebuilding engines. At age 15, he invented his first snow vehicle.
Joseph-Armand and Leopold sped the roaring, weird-looking contraption through the snow-covered streets of Valcourt. They were thrilled, thrilled! The innocent citizens of Valcourt were….a little less than thrilled. Okay, a lot less.
The innocent citizens of Valcourt weren’t the only ones who were not amused. Joseph-Armand and Leopold’s father took one look at the sled’s whirling propeller, one listen to the sled’s earsplitting roar, one estimate of the sled’s startling speed, and said five words: “Take. That. Thing. Apart. NOW!”
Departing from that noisy and notable start, Bombardier sets upon a trajectory that leads him away from his father’s wishes and leads him toward the creation of his dream machine. Illustrated with both photographs and diagrams of early Bombardier designs, as well as black and white drawings by artist Michael Lauritano, Snowmobile! melds the development of Bombardier’s snowmobile with Joseph-Armand’s personal relationships. Older doesn’t shy from the emotions surrounding death, estrangement and reunion, but neither does he dwell on them.
Part biography and part industrial history, Snowmobile! Bombardier’s Dream Machine is also the story of a family: a father’s unrealistic aspirations for his son, the relationship between two brothers, and the love and support of a husband and wife. Ultimately though, it is the story of a young man powered by imagination and his vision of what could be. Only three years after the death of his young son, Bombardier invented the first reliable snow machine, the B7. And, as any boy who watches the Winter X Games knows, the rest is history.
Author Jules Older has donated a hardback copy of Snowmobile! as a giveaway to readers of The Brave Ski Mom. To enter, simply leave a comment. For a bonus entry, share the title of a book you enjoyed as a child, or your kids enjoy. Let’s create a summer reading list! One winner will be chosen randomly on Tuesday, June 5th at 8:00 a.m. MDT.
Older shares that he doesn’t think Snowmobile! is just for boys, and I agree. The target audience is readers ages 8-11, both boys and girls. The book, which was chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection, is not long — only 54 pages — and can easily be read aloud. Machine-minded younger children will enjoy the photos and illustrations along with the story, while grade school readers will find the vocabulary accessible with some challenges here and there. Biography, history, geography…it’s all found in Snowmobile!, and compellingly, too.
To facilitate this post, I was given two copies of Snowmobile! Bombardier’s Dream Machine. I read one and I am giving the other brand-new copy away. As always, all opinions expressed are my own and are exactly what I would tell my family and friends.
Congratulations to Suzi, winner of Snowmobile! Bombardier’s Dream Machine. Not only is Suzi a Canadian with ties to Bombardier, but she blogs at The Big Picture Calgary, where she works to inspire families to find happiness outdoors.
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