Mark Weston, illustrated by Katie Yamasaki,
Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars
Lee & Low Books, 2008.
In 1914, when Soichiro Honda was just seven years old, a man drove a rumbling, leaking, Ford Model T through town. Soichiro, who had never seen a car before, ran behind it as far as he could. When he got too tired, he crouched down and smeared his hands in a puddle of oil. He liked the smell and vowed that he would learn how cars worked so that he could make one himself one day.
And so begins the journey of, arguably, the automobile industry’s biggest innovator.
At 15, Honda, who was not a good student, managed to apprentice himself to a Tokyo garage owner. After six years, Honda had become an expert repairman and moved to Hamamatsu, a city near his hometown, to open a garage.
This successful business made it possible for Honda to realize his dream of designing, building, and even racing a car of his own. But no sooner had he tasted victory, than he was seriously injured in a racing accident. This experience took Honda off the track and back to the drawing board, where he began designing and crafting engine parts and eventually motorcycles.
Honda’s motorcycle design earned him a business partner, and he soon became the tempestuous boss of an assembly line. “If we don’t tighten a nut properly, we put the customer’s life in danger,” he would shout. Despite his temper, Honda valued the workers in his factory and always listened to their ideas: and this willingness to listen and adapt made it possible for Honda to revolutionize the world with high-performance, fuel-efficient cars that have come to epitomize quality.
Weston’s biography of Soichiro Honda is rich in detail and packed with information. It is also the inspiring story of a boy who followed his life-long dream, which in turn led him to international success. Katie Yamasaki’s artwork brings both Honda’s inner and outer worlds to life with realistic, yet often dream-like depictions of the musings and experiences of this unusual man. In fact, Yamasaki’s research led her all the way to Honda’s hometown, to Honda plants and to the corporate headquarters in Japan.
This book is truly a gem for children with an interest in cars, and would be especially perfect for those who, like Honda, usually prefer machinery to books.