Monday, March 25, 2013

Maybelle the Cable Car by Virginia Lee Burton

Maybelle the Cable Car by Virginia Lee Burton

Rating: 4.5 stars

We just returned from a big ol' family trip to Northern California.  It was the first time I'd ever really  been there (does a two day stint in San Francisco in college for a conference and a ten hour layover in Los Angeles really count?) and I was blown away by the beauty and hipness of the place.  I suddenly realized how uncool I am here on the East Coast!

But rather than go on a tangent about my lack of cool, I'll try and focus on books.   Before this and any trip, I try to find a bunch of books about our destination so to provide a context for the kids.  Since they have few or no expectations and little experience to draw upon, I really think giving them picture-filled books to show them what we'll see is helpful.  Plus sights fly by their window so quickly, I like for them to...pre-steep, if you the city as much as possible.

So, Maybelle the Cable Car.  This is one of my favorite books by Virginia Lee Burton--it is charming, interesting, and informative.  Can't beat that!  In this book, the city fathers are thinking about retiring the cable cars in favor of buses, which are "newer and faster and more economical."  Maybelle is one of those cable cars, and she and her sisters are immediately dismayed at the news.  While some of the people are glad for progress, others are just as sad as Maybelle.  "We'll miss them...what a pity...We'll be like any other city."

So they call a public meeting and put it to a vote!  Obviously the cable cars win, but only after Big Bill the bus, the not-so-horrible enemy in the book, tries to climb the hills in the middle of the night.  At first, he thinks there's nothing to it.  But on a damp and foggy night, he slips, slides, and gets turned around.  He suddenly has a  little more respect for those cable cars.  So he concedes like a gentleman and beeps his horn to congratulate the cable cars as they take a victory climb up the hills of San Francisco.

Lorelei's I'm-on-a-cable-car grin.
After reading this book a dozen times at home and on the plane, all of us were VERY excited to ride the cable car.  We bought our tickets (and lost one...and I might have told a little lie that Lorelei was 4 not 5 so she didn't need one), stood in line, climbed aboard and held on tight.  Lorelei and Ben even got to stand-- though I did draw the line at letting them hang on to the side (see?  I am SO uncool!)--as our cable car noisily climbed up, up, up to the top of the hill.  We got off--where else?--at the Cable Car Museum so we could learn even more about the cable cars.  (Fascinating stuff there...I was eager to learn that Andrew Smith Hallidie, the inventor of the cable car, created it because he was an animal-lover, and he was tired of seeing horses get whipped while struggling up the hills' wet cobblestones.)

Anyway, a really good book even if you're not heading to San Francisco, but required reading if you are!

P.S.  In a man-I-wish-I-had-seen-that! moment, I found a nice little list of children's books (click here) about San Francisco on the blog  But I did find this blog post useful about kid-friendly activities and sites around the city.

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