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Home | LS5603 Children's and YA Literature | LS6643 Nonfiction for Children and YA
Alice Ramsey's Grand Adventure

Alice Ramsey's Grand Adventure Brown, Don. 1997. Alice Ramsey's grand adventure. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN: 0395701279.

Author and illustrator Don Brown chooses to tell the true yet mostly unknown story of Alice Ramsey, the first woman to drive coast-to-coast across the United States. Ramsey's story begins in the summer of 1909 as she leaves New York City at the wheel of a Maxwell automobile. Her passengers will vary along the way, she doesn't have a map, and she will face many obstacles, but fifty-nine days later she will pull into San Francisco and accomplish her dream. The story tells that she repeats this trek more than thirty times in her lifetime.

Burns labels Brown's writing style "accessible," and he indeed tells the story in a way that young readers can comprehend. He also makes comparisons that reveal that a journey across the United States was different in the early 1900's. On page 6, he goes into great detail about the car's requirements, such as lighting the headlights with a match and measuring the gasoline with a stick, in a way that allows even the youngest reader to realize the great differences between today's cars and the automobiles of Ramsey's time. Brown writes of  appropriate events throughout Ramsey's journey that add excitement, humor, and suspense. By labeling these events by location, the reader is able to follow Ramsey's path across the United States. Peters states in his review for School Library Journal, "Brown tells the tale in dramatic fashion, choosing entertaining details with a sure hand."

Brown's ink and watercolor illustrations enhance the text by further revealing Ramsey's surroundings. Although the faces of Brown's characters are not detailed, he is able to portray Ramsey's resolve through the tilt of a head, her shoulders hunched toward the steering wheel, and other body language. For example, Brown's text on page nine reads, "It was slower going over a road in Illinois. The way was clogged with pigs - big pigs, little pigs, brown, black and pink pigs!"  The illustration shows thirty pigs surrounding the little car with four bonnetted women. The outline of Ramsey's profile is shown, but her frustration is shown by the condescension in the tilt of her head and her hands placed on her hips in a huff. The fat pigs completely block the progression of the car, and this puts some perspective on the predicament faced by Ramsey in Brown's text.

The text is set in a medium serif font, and the design of each page differs. Many of the two page spreads have text on one side and an illustration on the other. Some have smaller illustrations and corresponding text placed in as many as four locations. The design also makes full use of the entire width of the book to show the drama and vastness of the terrain that Ramsey covered, such as page 23, which shows a small Maxwell with tiny bonnets sticking out crossing a huge river on a railroad bridge.

No access features are included.

Burns, Mary M. 1997. Booklist: Nonfiction. Horn Book Magazine 73(6). In EBSCOHost (database online). Available from  Accessed 25 February 2005.

Peters, John. 1997. Preschool to grade 4: Nonfiction. School Library Journal 43(9). In EBSCOHost (database online). Available from  Accessed 25 February 2005.

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Holly S.
Graduate Student at Texas Woman's University