Fearless: The Story of Racing Legend Louise Smith


I can always tell if Rue or the cats have been in the driver’s seat of our vehicles (emergency brake on, thank you very much).

Cats=cat hair all over the seat and paw prints on the windshield.

Rue=windshield wipers, cruise control, and high beams go haywire when I start the engine.

Is she imitating Nacho Man and me, or does the child have a need for speed? In 1923, seven-year-old Louise Smith decided that if other people could drive a car, then so could she. And so she did.

Fast.

Did she stop?

You betcha.

When she crashed into a chicken coup.

It was an inauspicious sign for a young girl who was expected to conform to certain behaviors as she got older. She married (a junkyard owner with easy access to spare parts, ironically) and tried to maintain a respectable life. But racing kept curling a tantalizing finger at her. A race promoter used her as a joke for an event. A woman who could drive a car, much less drive it quickly in the company of experienced male drivers? What a lark.

Louise placed third. A racing career was born.

It wasn’t easy. There were crashes that she was lucky to survive. She was taunted. She wasn’t making the kind of money that today’s race car drivers earn.

But she was happy.

I love biographies–that peek into another life, another time, another place–a story that sounds too good to be true but is. Thanks to writer Barb Rosenstock and illustrator Scott Dawson, we have Fearless: The Story of Racing Legend Louise Smith, a great picture book biography that reads like a story and includes an informative author’s note about the history of female racers in the United States. It’s perfect for sharing with 5-8 year-olds, but don’t feel the need to limit yourself to that age range.

Louise Smith didn’t feel the need to be limited by her age or gender.

Just make sure you hide the car keys.

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