Title: Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars
Author: Mark Weston
Illustrator: Katie Yamasaki
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 5.4
Concepts: entrepreneurship, innovation, competition, human resources, capital resources
Review: Already as a young child, Soichiro Honda had an inquisitive mind, and he enjoyed standing in the harbor, with the majestic Mount Fuji in the background, observing boats in the harbor and wondering how they worked. One memorable day in 1914, young Honda saw the first car he had ever seen, a Ford Model T, and he was so enthralled with this mechanical wonder that he vowed to make a car himself when he was older. Honda’s desire to learn about cars and his mechanical skills led him to find work at a garage in Tokyo. It took more than six years for him to work his way up from floor sweeper to a thoroughly-trained auto mechanic, but the experience proved invaluable in starting his own garage, and later, designing race cars.
Over the years, Honda’s work included innovations in producing piston rings, airplane propellers, motorcycles, engines, and cars. He also started his own business, the Honda Motor Company, which competed against more established companies and grew into one of the world’s largest car manufacturers. Although his temper in the workplace led to the nickname “Mr. Thunder,” he offered his employees good salaries and benefits, and he was careful to listen to their suggestions for improvement.
This interesting book offers children a unique opportunity to learn more about the person behind the household name “Honda.” Along the way, teachers and parents can use examples from Soichiro Honda’s story to reinforce some useful lessons in economics related to entrepreneurship, innovation, and competition. Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars will appeal to readers who enjoy carefully-illustrated picture books that feature informative biographies of people we otherwise may not know much about.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children