The Call of the Open Road: Born to Run;The Story of Johnny 99 by Wendy Parnell
AT HOME ON FLAMINGO LANE, TWO CARS SLEPT WITHOUT A CARE--
ROSALITA, A PINK CADILLAC, AND FRANKIE, A '57 BEL AIR.
FRANKIE AND ROSALITA AWOKE TO A LOUD SOUND, A RUMBLING BEAT.
THEY KNEW IN AN INSTANT IT WAS THEIR SON, RACING IN THE STREET.
JOHNNY 99 SLAMMED ON IS BRAKES WHEN HE SAW HIS DAD.
HE KNEW HE HAD DONE WRONG AND THAT HIS DAD WOULD BE MAD.
Growing up is hard to do, especially when you're a Super Sport model with lots of horsepower under your hood, just longing to rev and race with the best.
But Dad's headlight bezels are beetling and his grill is grumbling, and Johnny 99 knows he's in for the familiar lecture about racing in appropriate places. He pleads that he's born to run, and that kids just want to have fun. Mom and Dad suggest that he needs a grounding in the garage.
At last the repentant boy racer approaches his parents with a personal improvement road map.
"I'VE BEEN THINKING. MAYBE IT'S TIME I LEFT MY HOMETOWN.
YOU KNOW, SEE NEW THINGS AND SEE WHAT ELSE IS AROUND.
And in the oldest storybook tradition, Johnny 99 sets out to find fortune and enlightenment on the open road. He travels the highways and byways of the U.S.A., sending picture post cards back to his anxious parents. Johnny's confidence grows as he finds his way by fields and farms, from the heartland to sunset by shining seas.
Proud of his road prowess, Johnny 99 confidently heads back towards home, his engine high-revving. And then Johnny takes on the Badlands. But his coolant hasn't been checked, and he finds his radiator boiling over and his block in dire danger.
Luckily, two helpful highway patrol cars spot him and give him a timely tow back to town, and with his fluids on full, a somewhat chastened Johnny heads sedately toward home.
But if it's not a burning desert, it's a flash flood! Driving into the night, Johnny suddenly brakes to a panic stop. The bridge over the river is a total washout. He can't cross--and neither can anyone else. Johnny makes a fast U-turn back in the direction he came, parks by the roadside, and directs his headlights down the highway.
I FRANTICALLY FLASHED MY LIGHTS AND HONKED A WARNING SIGN.
THE CARS ALL SAW ME AND BRAKED... JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME.
And on the Fourth of July, Johnny's tour finally takes him back to his town's Main Street, where he is greeted as a hometown hero.
His speech hits home:
"MOM,, DAD, I DID A LOT OF GROWIN' UP ON THIS TRIP, AND I NOW REALIZE
YOU WERE RIGHT. THERE'S SOMETHING BETTER THAN RACING AND WINNING FIRST PRIZE.”
In Wendy Parnell's Born to Run: The Story of Johnny 99 (Rocket Star Press, 2015), young Johnny returns an older, wiser muscle car, one who no longer thinks loud mufflers and jackrabbit starts are the proper rules of the road.
While author Wendy Parnell's versification may need the timing on her scansion adjusted and her rhymes aligned, artist Matt Hall's illustrations are turbo-charged treats. Hall's photo-realistic paintings portray Johnny as a rev-crazy 1969 Camaro SS, with rakish hood and mag wheels, always revvin' for a drag race, while Mom and Dad are slightly out-of-style Cadillac and Chevy Bel Air rag-tops who like to park it safely in the garage by the time the moon is up. Hall's car characters are sure to be a hit with young fans of the classic movie CARS, and his wonderfully picturesque roadside scenes--from the Cadillac Ranch with its half-buried Caddies to the Pacific shores of San Diego--and his charming reproductions of vintage post cards, and county fair surreal backgrounds make for vibrantly stunning picture book art. Matt Hall's illustrations take this one roaring across the finish line as the checkered flag comes down--a winner going away.