Dreamers and Doers Critical Essays

Norman Richards


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Dreamers and Doers, with its abundance of illustrations, touches of humor, and easy-to-read format, is designed for young readers, especially those who like to tinker and experiment on their own. Richards makes clear from the start his intent to commemorate four of the many inventors who have contributed to the betterment of American life, and the book never deviates from that intent. He also expresses his hope that the vision, talent, and persistence of the four individuals profiled will inspire his young readers.

Richards obviously admires the people about whom he writes, sympathizing with their failures and tribulations. This sympathy is most evident in his treatment of the impoverished Goodyear, who was several times imprisoned for debt and several of whose children died, probably attributable in part to horrid living conditions. Although Richards says little about Goodyear’s personality beyond emphasizing his dogged persistence, he must have possessed some endearing characteristics. His wife gave birth to nine children and endured without complaint his imprisonments and poverty, always remaining supportive of him. When she finally died, worn out with work and childbearing, he was at first devastated—but he soon secured the hand of the twenty-year-old Fanny Wardell, although he was fifty-four at the time.

Richards’ sympathy for Goddard is of a different sort: Whereas Goodyear labored long to make an already-discovered substance universally useful, Goddard’s work on rocketry was so far ahead of his time that, had people heeded...

(The entire section is 641 words.)