Saturday, 23 November 2013

How Cars Work

Anyone who gets talking to Eddie is soon going to get talking to Eddie about buses. As regular readers of this blog will know, buses are just a little bit important to Eddie right now.
(entire route of the 210 in both directions is tomorrow's treat for us...)
So inevitably kindly adults caught in a route interrogation conversation will ask the question, "Are you going to be a bus driver when you grow up then Eddie?"
Which sends him into a bit of spiral of panic and denial; "No. That would be too hard. I don't know how to drive. I'm just a child."
The idea that it is a skill he could be taught one day seems to be Dreaming the Impossible Dream.

I knew it was formenting in his brain though when I started finding him craning over the dashboard and crawling in the footwell of the driver's seat of the car on a regular basis, examining pedals and buttons and grilling me on their purposes. I am really not the person to grill on this subject beyond the basics. Eventually he admitted, "I need to learn to drive soon because when me and Ella M fly to Australia together I've said I'll drive the hire car." It was news to me that he was planning an imminent return trip to Oz with his 6 year old fiancee but I understood the pressure of responsibility he was feeling.

Enter 'How Cars Work; the interactive guide to mechanisms that make a car work' by Nick Arnold and Allan Sanders, part book, part cardboard meccano; a properly unpatronising primer in car engineering which is also a little bit tasty-looking.

The book has a removable peg board at the front and a back pocket full of numbered coloured cogs, levers and screws. Each page looks (in detail- this will really properly satisfy any budding engineer who wants to look under a bonnet) at a different aspect of a car's mechanics and then provides a plan to build a working example on the peg board. You get therefore to make and see how a piston moves, or the motion of a windscreen wiper or the principle of an accelerator in action amongst others. It's really very nicely done.

The making is reasonably technical, requiring the following of a plan and grid references and appropriate selection of parts. Eddie is not of the mindset to do it yet, Bill had a good play around. But Eddie does pore over the technical descriptions with a bright and beady eye. Hoovering up the knowledge he needs for a golden future on the buses.

I've started keeping the car keys hidden.

nice bit of suspension

Incidently in a week where there has been much discussion about the pros/cons of the Goldiebox range of toys to encourage girls into engineering, after their rather fun ad went viral, I think this book does a reasonable job of gender neutrality. The illustrations are just about evenly split between male and female drivers and the colour palette is not agressively 'blokey'. All you DO need to enjoy a read/play is an interest in how cars work.
Here's the Goldiebox ad if you've happened to miss it-
'How Cars Work' by Nick Arnold and Allan Sanders, published by Templar, isbn 978-1-84877-737-8


  1. As someone who cannot drive (tried taking test umpteen times when children were babies and then couldn't afford to keep up) I have resolved to TRY AGAIN & am seriously tempted to get this book for ME.

    Please tell Eddie my husband drove a red London bus for a year before he became a teacher. He really enjoyed it!

  2. This looks ace - if it had been around when I was 17 my Dad would have probably got it for me as he insisted on explaining how cars work in detail before I learned to drive (of course I took NOTHING in!) Glad it is neutral too - I'm firmly in the love the ads/not sure about the products camp re Goldiblox.

  3. An ex of mine told me he made up worked out new bus routes on maps when he was a child. He grew up to be a bus driver and then worked in planning doing what he dreamed of all those years before. The only thing I remember (it was a *very* long time ago) was that in the contracts for operators they specified the exact shade of red that buses had to be painted :-)