Racial intolerance, social change, and sweeping progress make 1908 Washington, D.C., a turbulent place to grow up in for 12-year-old Emily Soper. For Emily, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic, and she's more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer than trying to conform to the proper expectations of young ladies. When Papa’s livelihood is threatened by racist neighbors and horsepower of a different sort, Emily faces changes she'd never imagined. Finding courage and resolve she didn't know she had, Emily strives to save Papa’s business, even if it means going all the way to the White House.
- Emily and her friend, Rose, are talking with Beatrice about the assembly line cars they have heard Henry Ford is building (p. 39):
"Maybe as a toy," I say. I take the tiny automobile from Charlie, turning it over in my hands. Except for the front where Charlie says the engine would be, it doesn't look much bigger than a carriage. Is it possible it can move without a horse pulling it? Who would even want that?
- The author does a good job of helping the reader understand what words mean. The main character, Emily, often simply asks what a word means:
P. 40 If Miss Carlisle hadn't rung the bell ending recess, I would have given Bea Pea a piece of my mind. Obselete indeed. I wonder what obsolete means.
I ask Papa at supper.
"Obsolete means no longer in use. Out of date. Where did you hear that word, Emily?"
I don't want to hurt Papa's feelings by telling him what Beatrice said. Besides, it was Beatrice after all, and Charlie was right about electricity. "I heard it at school."
- My favorite moment is when they are having some friends over for tea. The mom says that you just can't trust black people. They're sure to steal from you. Emily is enraged and pours tea all over her lap. Loved it!