4 Questions and 3 Sentence Starters with Darlene Beck-Jacobson

Hi, Darlene! Congratulations on the publication of Wheels of Change. I loved every minute I spent with Emily and her family. Thank you for telling her story.

Darlene Beck-Jacobson: It was my pleasure Mr. Schu.  Thank you for allowing me to share the book with your students.  I am so excited to be here!

What planted the seed for Wheels of Change?

Darlene Beck-Jacobson: The idea for WHEELS OF CHANGE sprang from two bits of information I discovered while researching my family tree.  One was that my paternal grandmother’s father was a carriage maker in Washington DC at the turn of the Twentieth Century.  The other was that grandma received an invitation to a reception held at the White House by Theodore Roosevelt.  She attended that reception and met TR.  The story grew from there. 

I researched the time period and setting, as well as the workings of a carriage barn, and then began to write.  I returned to research whenever I needed to flesh out setting, characters, or to enhance a scene.  I did e-mail interviews with many experts to make the story as authentic and accurate as possible.

Click here to view these resources. 

Please share three ways you envision Wheels of Change being used in a fifth-grade classroom.

Darlene Beck-Jacobson: In addition to the Curriculum Guide on the Industrial Revolution, Study Questions that tie into the Core Content Standards, and a vocaulary list for teachers to use in the classroom, there are so many possibilities!

One: You can have a discussion on popular toys and games of today vs. 1908 when most people had no electricity.

Two:  The entire school can have a “Do it the Old-fashioned Way no Electricity Day” event. All writing is done with pencils, crayons, or chalk – no markers or ballpoint pens. No computers, lights, radios, TV’s or even telephones!  Everyone brings his or her own home-made lunch as well.  No bottled water or convenience food.  Quite a challenge…Are you up for it? How would the day be different?

Three: Have a discussion on Hand Made vs. Factory Made goods.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?  You can tie this in with the SKILLS required to be self-sufficient 100 years ago.  

Many people knew how to do one or more of the following things: carpentry, metal work, sewing, baking, farming, canning and preserving food, raising livestock, tanning hides, making candles and soap, chopping wood, making a fire.  How many people do you know today who would have the skills needed to survive?

You could also tie in the expected roles of males and females of the era.  What jobs were women permitted to do?  What behaviors were expected?

What resources would you recommend to a sixth grader who wants to learn more about the Industrial Revolution,  women’s suffrage, and President Roosevelt.

Darlene Beck-Jacobson:For the Industrial Revolution, I’d definitely start with the History Channels Series on Men Who Made America, about J D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J P Morgan, Henry Ford, and other Industrialists who changed American from an agricultural to an Industrial Society.  There are also many books about these and other men of the era.

Many books have been written about Women’s Suffrage, but one of the most often cited is THE HISTORY OF WOMAN SUFFRAGE  by Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  But, to get a more complete picture of the era, I’d recommend reading SHE WHO HOLDS THE SKY: The story of Matilda Joslyn Gage ( Sally Roesch Wagner, Sky Carrier Press).  Few people have heard of this woman who worked alongside Anthony and Stanton fighting for the rights of women.  Why was she written out of history?  Read the book and find out.

To learn about Theodore Roosevelt, begin with his wonderful letters, which are available in book form. He wrote constantly to friends, his wife and children and others on a variety of topics. These letters are a fascinating peek at a larger than life person.

Sagamore Hill National Park is another place to learn about the life of TR.  It is his former home near Oyster Bay, Long Island that is now filled with books, artifacts, and materials from his life.  Since your students love book trailers, Mr. Schu, they might want to check out the  silent home movie of TR and his son Archie.

If we could view your bookshelf from when you were Emily’s age, what would we see on the shelves?

You’d see the entire collection of Nancy Drew Mysteries.  I would get 4 or 5 new ones every year at Christmas until I had the entire series.  I also had a few Hardy Boys, Illustrated Grimm Fairy Tales, Black Beauty, Heidi, Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank), Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Prince and the Pauper, Dr. Seuss, and an assortment of Archie and Classics Illustrated Comic Books.  I also wore out several library cards checking out books every week.

Explore Darlene's website. 

Please finish these sentences:

Reading is the best kind of time travel. You can visit other worlds, go back or forward in time, experience amazing feats, and learn something new without leaving your comfy chair.

School libraries are portals to amazing adventures.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what it was like meeting Kermit Roosevelt, the great-great grandson of TR.  What a kind, friendly and unassuming man!  I presented him with a signed copy of my book as a thank you for his providing a lovely blurb for the book’s back cover.  It was a great opportunity to “Pay it Forward”.  Besides being a law professor, he writes books for adults.  It’s fun connecting with fellow authors wherever they are from.

Thank you, Darlene! 

I am giving away a copy of Wheels of Change

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 12/23 to 11:59 p.m. on 12/25. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. If you win, please pay it forward. 

Borrow Wheels of Change from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


  1. Hi Mr. Schu,
    What a joy and thrill it is to see my book talked about on your wonderful blog! Thanks so much for inviting me into your library and sharing me with your kids!

  2. Great interview, Darlene and Mr. Schu!

  3. When I began reading Darlene's WHEELS OF CHANGE, it didn't take long for me to get sucked into the story, and for a woman who has limited time to read fiction, I read its entirety within 2 days! In my opinion, this book belongs in every school and public library. It's a gem! If anyone's interested, here's my review, I love this book so much :)

    1. Thanks so much for your continued support Donna, Robin and Mr. Schu! What a pleasure to be included in such wonderful and talented company.


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