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The Tweedles Go Electric

by Monica Kulling; Marie Lafrance, illus.

It’s the turn of the 20th century and the Tweedle family is casting off its reputation as “fuddy-duddies” by buying an automobile. Mama and son Francis respond to the prospect with zeal, but daughter Frances’s reaction is lackadaisical – she would rather keep reading her book than go for a ride. Faced with unreliable steam cars that “might blow up in your face” and rattletrap gas ones that “shake every tooth in your head,” Papa, the Edwardian renegade, buys electric. As the Tweedles travel through town, they are greeted with honks and shouts of “Get a real car!” and “Get a horse!” However, when one of their naysaying neighbours has an emergency, the derided vehicle, with Frances behind the wheel, ends up saving the day. 

Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award winner Marie Lafrance’s elegant graphite and mixed-media collage illustrations showcase the technological and social changes of the era. Busy streetscapes are filled with penny-farthing bicycles, horse-drawn carriages, and “one-cylinder gasoline clunkers” going every which way with nary a traffic signal in sight. The sinewy, angular characters are nattily outfitted in stylish bustles, waistcoats, and ankle boots. The scenes also cleverly contain small, timely details like a toy replica Wright brothers airplane. 

Toronto author Monica Kulling explores this historical perspective on transportation with wit and a sly nod to contemporary concerns. The cigar-puffing salesman espouses the selling points of gasoline-powered cars: People “want noise. They want smoke…. They want a car to sound and smell like a car.” Kulling’s informative and playful text conveys the views of an age when electricity was new and “more frightening than a basket of boas” and “no one with any sense” would linger under telephone lines for long. Zippy dialogue moves the story forward with plenty of funny familial kibitzing. 

The Tweedles’ car is “smart and green” in every sense and in every century. The Tweedles Go Electric is an entertaining and engaging trip to the past that will fuel young readers’ thoughts on eco-transportation today.


Reviewer: Linda Ludke

Publisher: Groundwood Books


Price: $16.95

Page Count: 32 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-1-55498-167-0

Released: March

Issue Date: 2014-4

Categories: Picture Books

Age Range: 4-7