My bookshelf contains a yellowing copy of From The Cockpit, the 1964 autobiography that is almost certainly the first significant work to document the life and career of Bruce McLaren.
Many other books, tributes and retrospectives have since covered McLaren’s life and career, the company and cars he built and his legacy. But there hasn’t been a book like Bruce Wants To Go Faster.
Children’s books don’t make it on to the motoring pages often but a preview copy of Bruce Wants to Go Faster by Auckland author Dreydon Sobanja landed on my desk this week.
It’s the third in this author’s series about inspirational Kiwis written for young audiences. It’s an easy read with original illustrations that extends the theme of the Sobanja’s previous works Ed Climbs a Big Hill and Jean Dreams of Flying.
This time Sobanja has aimed at an older 9-12 age group but you can see the angle. Books that educate modern Kiwi kids about ordinary Kiwis who achieved extraordinary things.
The book tells a condensed version of McLaren’s life story from growing up in Auckland, spending years in a crippled children’s hospital as he battled Perthes Syndrome, to his early car club competition exploits, and then domestic and international success.
Plenty of the emphasis is on what inspired McLaren’s dreams and how persistence, planning and practice along with the help of some key mentors led to his success.
The illustrations are by Murray Dewhurst who brings a motor racing connection and an eye for detail in the depiction of Coopers and Can-Am racers.
His interest in the sport was stirred by his late uncle Keith Madgwick, a Bay of Plenty motor racing stalwart who was a club administrator and Mini racer, having overcome the adversity of polio.
The story resonated with me. Back when I was in the book’s target age group, a bright orange racing car with a stylised Kiwi on its flanks and the names McLaren and Hulme sign written in flamboyant script meant more to me than a black jersey and silver fern.
The McLaren story is as valid today as inspiration for another generation of young Kiwis.
I like the idea that along with the computer games and new apps, kids could receive a real book that tells a real story.
● Bruce Wants to Go Faster, published by Inspired Kids and distributed by South Pacific Books, with a RRP of $24.95 when it launches on October 31.