Hello, friends! Our book today is Jessie: Queen of the Road by Lindsay Ward, a loving yet misguided tribute to female motorcyclists of the early 20th century.
Zipping through the busy streets of New York brings Jessie joy, but it’s tough being the only female motorcycle on the streets, especially when the boy motorcycles are bullies. So Jessie sets off on a cross-country trip, making headlines as she climbs mountains and travels the coastlines. She tries to volunteer to run messages in WWI, but is rejected for being a girl; instead, she becomes a stunt rider in carnivals and fairs. After recovering from a terrible accident, however, she finds that war is once again threatening – will she be allowed to serve this time?
Heartfelt but deeply misdirected. Inspired by an assortment of lady cyclists from the first half of the twentieth century in the US, Ward amalgamates their achievements into the sentient Jessie, who drives riderless. While this concept worked well in Ward’s previous title Rosie, which followed a anthropomorphized tractor through WWII, it simply does not in Jessie. While Rosie was clearly established a tool created and used by remarkable women laborers, the emphasis on Jessie as a completely autonomous creature visually and historically erases the accomplishments of the actual female motorcyclists, who operated machines like her to make the achievements that Jessie is being celebrated for. And while Ward briefly covers these women (including her mother) in an author’s note, it doesn’t stop the story from feeling divorced from the real-life human women who made history. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed Jessie’s determination and her inspiring motto, but I can’t help but be disappointed that this one took a wrong turn in concept. Worth a look, but I would instead recommend the powerful Rosie: Stronger Than Steel for a historical girl-power tale.
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)