The quest to invent a skimobile, which burned in one man’s heart as fiercely as the Holy Grail, as researched and re-imagined by Older.
Older tells the story of Joseph-Armand Bombardier in the unhurried manner of a river approaching the sea, allowing for plenty of twists and turns as it goes its leisurely way. Bombardier was a boy of his time, and his time—the early years of the 20th century—was all about engines. Link that to his home place—Quebec, where it snowed like crazy for seven months a year and no one bothered to plow the few roads—and his drive to create a snow vehicle is as understandable as might be his love for hot chocolate. The author charts his route from his small village to Montreal, his journeymanship as a mechanic, his marriage and the loss of his son because he couldn’t get him to the hospital through the winter drifts. His gradual fashioning of his workhorse snow machine “to carry doctors to patients, priests to parishioners, children to school” unfolds naturally. It’s a warm story, made toastier still by Lauritano’s spare, retro drawings, which are complemented by period photographs. An affectionate author’s note parses fact from fiction and is followed by a timeline, a bibliography, glossary and index.
From any perspective, Older’s yeomanly tale of the snow vehicle’s birth is as worthy to know as the inspiration of the Iditarod. (Fiction. 8-11)