Books by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

JUST FINE THE WAY THEY ARE by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2011

Wooldridge's story of America's land-transportation networks—its roadways and railways—is folksy but panoramic. The informal, affable tone, something like a movie voice-over, works well here, conveying a sweeping amount of material—over a lot of ground and 200 years—as it chugs merrily along, hitting the high points, while Walz provides heroic imagery with a Thomas Hart Benton tang. The narrative proceeds chronologically, with paths and post roads being replaced by the National Road, which is trumped by the railroads, which in turn is transcended by "wheelmen" (bicyclists) and, more importantly, by the automobile. Intriguing players and institutions are introduced—Peter Cooper, Lucius Stockton, Henry Ford, Tom Thumb, the B&O Railroad and the Good Intent Stagecoach line—though because of the survey nature of the book, they are more food for thought than fleshed out (a good timeline and bibliography at the end of the book helps point readers toward further information). Fittingly, the story has got real rhythm to it, helped along by the refrain—"Things were just fine the way they were," thought those who benefited from a soon-to-be-diminished carrier—but most of all by capturing the surging, ever-evolving nature of the country's transportation network. As the book closes, it is clear that the system continues to evolve—unpredictably, perhaps, but inexorably. (Informational picture book. 8-12)Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Aug. 1, 2010

Edith Wharton, a New York City child of wealth and privilege, escaped in several ways, "[b]ut Edith's keen eye, her reading...and her need to tell the truth were the beginnings of her brave escape from the expectations of the society into which she'd been born." Wharton's truth-telling appears in the sharply observed traits of her characters, traits that could not have pleased New York society's rich and [in]famous. Although Wooldridge does not provide critiques of her writings, she does place Wharton in her times and describe her personal life, including her painful love affair and her several homes in the United States and abroad. But her subject does not come off the page as a full person in this chronological account, which is a pity, as most young readers will likely bring little familiarity of the subject to this reading. This lack is partially compensated for by the many photos and a full panoply of reference niceties: source notes, bibliography, list of Wharton's works, film and TV adaptations. In all, a useful study that might lead sophisticated young readers to Wharton's novels. (index) (Biography. 12 & up)Read full book review >
THANK YOU VERY MUCH, CAPTAIN ERICSSON! by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
BIOGRAPHY
Released: July 15, 2005

With Glass's rumply, spray-painted figures in period dress adding a loose-jointed air, Wooldridge pays tribute to Swedish-born John Ericsson. An inventor, his best work, from a speedy steam engine and a screw propeller for ships to a super-powered pump for fire trucks, was rejected as too radical—until his ironclad Monitor fought the Merrimac to a draw in the Civil War and brought him well-deserved fame. Dwelling on his successes, barely alluding to his (many) failures, and closing with additional biographical detail, this portrait of an engineer with both a gift for seeing "out of the present and into the possible," and an unquenchable spirit, makes inspiring reading for budding innovators in the sciences or any other field. (Picture book/biography. 7-9)Read full book review >
THE LEGEND OF STRAP BUCKNER by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 15, 2001

Strap Buckner was one of the original Old Three Hundred to settle Texas with Stephen Austin, and legend rose around him to compete with his serious size. He'd thump a welcoming hand on the back of a fella and send him sprawling. Here, Wooldridge (Wicked Jack, 1995, etc.) and Glass (Mountain Men, p. 659, etc.) concoct a truly larger-than-life character who wallops every man he meets, every time, always with "great grace," if tinged with a touch of bombast and bravado. Wooldridge has an excellent way with words: " ‘It is ever thus with a man of genius,' he lamented. ‘To be misunderstood, shunned, avoided by the common folk of the world!' " This after his townspeople start to fade into the shadows whenever he appears. Glass depicts Strap in oafish counterpoint to Wooldridge's windbaggery, with an unruly mop of red hair and a ponderous gut. Strap moves from town to town, ultimately to be circumvented every time, until his better side advises him to seek peace and forsake his genius to clobber. "But the devil never can let a man's good resolve go unchallenged." Soon Strap is hurling a dare to fight all comers—and readers are ready to see the boaster come down a peg or two. The Infernal Fiend takes up Strap's offer—"He saw pride in Strap's eyes and heard the echo of it in Strap's boast"—and succeeds in taking the tar out of Strap. A robust and high-humored version of the Strap Buckner legend, full of the over-the-top yarning now associated with Texas. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Sept. 15, 2001

In 1869, at the age of 55, a big woman with a big name—Esther Mae Hobart McQuigg Slack Morris—headed to Wyoming Territory. She believed a woman should be able to vote and to hold office and she set about to see to it that she could in South Pass City. Sure enough, on election day her doctor attested that "the operation of voting had no ill effects on a woman's health." She went on to become Justice of the Peace when her predecessor resigned over woman suffrage only to turn the job back over to him, once she'd proven herself. When the demise of gold fever caused South Pass City to dwindle, Esther Morris moved on to other places in Wyoming, but she had made a convert to the cause in a young lawyer named Ben Sheeks, who brought the message to Washington State and Utah. The story is told as the rollicking tale it is, and the brightly colored pictures feature the exaggerated facial expressions and golden exterior light of a fine Wild West, cartoon newsreel. Even the horses have big personalities. Wyoming was the first territory to grant women the right to vote, decades before American women in general could. This is a fun-loving look at one woman's place in that history. An author's note includes sources, Web sites, and places to visit. (Nonfiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
WICKED JACK by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 15, 1995

Wooldridge's first book is stunning. Wicked Jack loves being mean, luring people into his clutches with phony kindness. One day he is accidently nice to St. Peter and is given three of the ``sorriest'' wishes St. Peter has ever granted: that the first person to sit in his rocking chair sticks to it, that the first person to grab his sledgehammer sticks to it, and that the first one to pass a firebush gets drawn into the prickles. When the Devil's sons come calling, Jack does such a job on them and their father that when he dies, the Devil turns him away: ``You go start yourself a hell of your own!'' Wooldridge narrates this story in the voice of a toothless storyteller, cramming it with unrefined but sculpted expressions, and colloquialisms that border on wisecracks. She supplements the harmonious architecture of the plot with an equally exciting rhythm. Snap, crackle, popit's just about flawless, with a careful source note in the back. Hillenbrand's hilarious illustrations are graphite caricatureswhose dry sarcasm is comparable, say, to Georg Grosz'sentertainingly colored and softened with oils and oil pastels. His style is ideal for depicting tiny, expressive actionsJack flicking a match or picking dirt from under his fingernails. Everything in these pictures belongs to the sphere of high comedy, and readers will hoot. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >