Alice Across America: The Story of the First Women’s Cross-Country Road Trip by Sarah Glenn Marsh, illustrated by Gilbert Ford

    Alice Across America: The Story of the First Women’s Cross-Country Road Trip by Sarah Glenn Marsh, illustrated by Gilbert Ford, Henry Holt and Company: Christy Ottaviano Books, 9781250297020, 2020

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

What did you like about the book? Alice Ramsey was a spunky and intelligent young woman who was known as an accomplished equestrian. When her horse was spooked by an automobile, her husband decided to buy her one to keep her safe on the road. She slipped behind the wheel and enjoyed the experience so much that she entered in endurance races and won. Alice’s driving abilities drew the attention of the manufacturer, Maxwell-Briscoe. The company invited Alice to embark on a cross-country tour to demonstrate that their car was so safe, even a woman could drive it. Alice decided to take the challenge, and she invited three of her friends to join her on the trip. They encountered many obstacles along the way, from disbelievers to potholes, to mechanical failures and inclement weather. All the while, Alice and her friends endured and overcame many obstacles as they made their way to California.  After 59 days and 3800 miles of mostly unpaved roads, Alice and her friends arrived in San Francisco. Even though Alice’s accomplishment has mostly faded from history, her determination will not be forgotten. The watercolor and mixed media illustrations in this text are superb. The lush colors and detailed drawings provide excellent supports for young readers as they attempt to imagine a period in history that isn’t familiar. The end matter features an informative two-page spread including photographs of Alice and her friends. And, another section provides a detailed comparison of automobile travel through the years.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Since the premise that the book is built on presents sexist undertones of the era – that is, a car being proven so safe that even a woman could drive it, I was pleased to see that Alice’s fortitude and willingness to roll up her sleeves to fix flat tires and other mechanical failures was featured prominently. That said, I fear that the younger readers may not fully grasp the importance of Alice and her friends’ accomplishments without attending to the end matter and having an additional discussion with an adult. I also would have enjoyed learning more about the Maxwell-Briscoe automobile that Alice drove.

To whom would you recommend this book? This is an important text to include in a women’s history collection. Those who enjoyed Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride may also enjoy this empowering women’s journey story.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? 917.304

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Linda Broderick, Lincoln Street Elementary School, Northboro, MA

Date of review: 4/3/2020

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