Snowmobile: Bombardier's Dream Machine
Inventing a way to go on snow.
In 1922, when Joseph-Armand Bombardier was fifteen years old he built his first snow vehicle. He had always loved to tinker with motors and make things go, and he dreamed of building a vehicle that could go over snow. His first attempt, using a Model T Ford engine and a wooden propeller, worked well. To Joseph-Armand’s mind, anyhow. Not so much his father, who made him take the contraption apart.
Over the years, Joseph-Armand dreamed of becoming a great mechanic and inventing machines. But when his young son died of a fever because it was impossible to get to the hospital over the snow-covered roads, Joseph-Armand applied his single-minded determination to building a vehicle that could go over snow. It took years, but he accomplished his goal. His invention changed the way people in snow country lived. Inaccessible roads could now be travelled, taking patients to hospitals, doctors and priests to the needy, children to school, and even mail to residents.
Today snowmobiles are mostly for recreation, but the impact that Joseph-Armand Bombardier’s dream invention has had is immeasurable.
Look Inside the Book:
Author & Illustrator Bios:Jules Older, author
Jules Older is a rarity—a skier who snowmobiles. When he’s not on snow, he is usually writing children’s books. His books include Pig, Cow, and Ice Cream. He lives in San Francisco, California.
Read more about Jules.
Michael Lauritano, illustrator
Michael Lauritano is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design. Snowmobile is his first children’s book. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Read more about Michael.
Awards & Honors:
A Junior Library Guild Selection
The snowmobile was invented not as a recreational vehicle but out of necessity. The inventor, Joseph-Armand Bombardier, grew up in a small Quebec town, which, as with many Canadian villages in the early years of the last century, was cut off from the outside world each winter. Bombardier envisioned an emergency vehicle capable of skimming across the unplowed roads. With determination in the face of ridicule, he eventually created a successful product. After the Canadian government mandated plowed roads, the vehicle morphed into the recreational vehicle we know today. This is in many ways an old-fashioned biography, with invented dialogue and even retro-looking line-drawing illustrations. Yet, the approach does give a spark of life to a rather obscure subject. An author’s note explains the motivation behind the book, including the desire to reach reluctant boy readers, and those who enjoy snowmobiling should appreciate the look back at its origins. Students using the book for a school report will find the time line and glossary of French words helpful. —Todd Morning
The quest to invent a skimobile, which burned in one man’s heart as fiercely as the Holy Grail, as researched and re-imagined by Older.
Older tells the story of Joseph-Armand Bombardier in the unhurried manner of a river approaching the sea, allowing for plenty of twists and turns as it goes its leisurely way. Bombardier was a boy of his time, and his time—the early years of the 20th century—was all about engines. Link that to his home place—Quebec, where it snowed like crazy for seven months a year and no one bothered to plow the few roads—and his drive to create a snow vehicle is as understandable as might be his love for hot chocolate. The author charts his route from his small village to Montreal, his journeymanship as a mechanic, his marriage and the loss of his son because he couldn’t get him to the hospital through the winter drifts. His gradual fashioning of his workhorse snow machine “to carry doctors to patients, priests to parishioners, children to school” unfolds naturally. It’s a warm story, made toastier still by Lauritano’s spare, retro drawings, which are complemented by period photographs. An affectionate author’s note parses fact from fiction and is followed by a timeline, a bibliography, glossary and index.
From any perspective, Older’s yeomanly tale of the snow vehicle’s birth is as worthy to know as the inspiration of the Iditarod.
School Library Journal
Joseph-Armand Bombardier was a gifted mechanic and inventor who received his first patent in 1937. Beginning with the dire situation of a sick child, snow, and no way to get to the doctor, Older introduces the man who invented the snowmobile. Bombardier's childhood and early days as a student mechanic in Montreal and his many attempts to find the right way to travel on snow are presented in short, clear chapters. Full-page ink and pencil illustrations appear throughout. An author's note clarifies aspects of the book that are fact and those that are fiction, such as the dialogue. This biography-cum-adventure-story will appeal to reluctant readers. —Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD
ISBN: 978-1-60734-530-5 EPUB
ISBN: 978-1-60734-085-0 PDF
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Page count: 64
6 x 9