Friday, March 1, 2013

Snowmobile by Jules Older - some fascinating mechanical history

One the most ubiquitous things about life in Alaska is the number of snowmachines*. Everybody has one or access to one and during the winter (until it gets too cold), you are just as likely to see people run an errand on a snowmachine as in a car. As far as recreation, they truly are everywhere and if you have ever been on one you would understand why. They go incredibly fast, as are pretty easy to control and just a blast run around on. As popular as they are in many northern climates however, few people likely know about Joseph-Armand Bombardier and his decades-long goal to invent a vehicle that could move on snow. That's where this very basic, short history Snowmobile: Bombardier's Dream Machine by Jules Older comes in handy.
Snowmobile is a short book, just over fifty pages including illustrations, and rightfully aimed at readers of the 8-10 range. But the story it tells is quite compelling and Bombardier is a very inspiring individual.

Born in the country town of Valcourt, Quebec in 1907 to parents with designs on him becoming a priest, he pursued his love of mechanical things to Montreal, learned, worked and returned home to a life spent turning wrenches while he continued to refine his dream of a snow vehicle. For Bombardier and people like him in rural Canada, where the roads always became blocked for months with snow, the machine would prove to be the difference between life and death in the winter months. Sadly, he could not successfully transfer a design to working model before one of his children became dreadfully ill one winter and died as the family had no way to transport him to the hospital. His invention became an obsession after the toddler's death and eventually he found success.

Teen readers, even reluctant ones, will blow through this short book with ease, but I think as an introduction to the subject it's quit valuable. Older includes a section in the end with photographs of the early machines and has a bibliography of other books to seek out for more information. For all that I have enjoyed snowmachines, I had no idea of their history and enjoyed reading Snowmobile quite a bit. The fact that Bombardier's company is still such a powerhouse in the industry is just that much more impressive.

*In Alaska we call them snowmachines, everywhere else they are snowmobiles. 
** Nope, I don't know why we call them that either. :)

 [Post pic info: Joseph-Armand Bombardier on the left.]


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