Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Bertha Takes a Drive: How the Benz Automobile Changed the World

Bertha Takes a Drive: How the Benz Automobile Changed the World

Jan Adkins
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2017   ISBN: 978-1580896962

Early one morning Bertha Benz wakes up her two eldest sons and together the three of them sneak downstairs. They push Bertha’s husband’s invention, the Benz Motorwagen, out of the workshop and into the street behind their house. The Emperor of Germany has “declared the Motorwagen illegal,” and there are two officers outside the Benz’s front door who are there to prevent them from taking it out.

Bertha is sure that her husband’s invention is a wonderful machine and she wants the world to see how useful it can be. She tells her sons that they are going to drive to their grandmother’s house, which is sixty miles away. The boys are shocked that they are going to travel such a long distance in the Motorwagen, on roads that are not really suitable for such a vehicle.

Bertha and the boys soon discover that their trip is going to be challenging. First the fuel line is clogged with dust from the road, then the car has trouble getting up a hill and has to be pushed. Then the coating on a vital wire is worn off due to all the “shaking and bouncing” that the car is subjected to. More problems come up as they motor along the roads, but Bertha is determined to find solutions and to prove that the Motorwagen is a great invention.

In this excellent book the author takes his readers back to a time when many changes were taking place in Europe. Karl Benz’s creation so unsettled people that both the Kaiser and the church felt threatened by it and banned its use. What would happen to the rightful order of things if people could go where they wanted, if they could be independent? Why, they might even want to choose their rulers for themselves!

With care and great attention to detail, the author tells a story about a woman who refused to be discouraged, and who was determined to prove that an invention that she believed in was indeed a wonderful and useful machine. At the back of the book diagrams shows us what the Benz Motorwagon III looked like and how it worked. An author’s note also provides us with further information about the story.

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