The Two Cars

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By Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

New York Review Books, 1955

The two cars came to a nice, flat stretch of road. They both drove along smoothly, not faster than allowed, but not slower either. Their motors liked the cool night air and purred like kittens.

I wish I could remember where I found this book. It was somewhere random, like a book store in D.C.’s Union Station. It was wrapped tightly in plastic, so I couldn’t leaf through the pages, but I was so charmed by the drawing on the cover (not to mention the quality of the binding), that I bought it, stuck it in my office closet, and gave it to my son for whatever big gift-giving holiday came up next. Neither he nor I was disappointed. It’s “The Tortoise and the Hare,” but with cars. One is fast, shiny, and boastful. The other is an old jalopy, scratched up a little, but reliable and safe. On a magic moonlit night, the doors of their garage swing open and they head out to see who is “the best car on the road.” The d’Aulaires were a renowned husband-wife team known for their illustrated versions of Norse and Greek myths. The drawings within — some black and white, some color — remind me of New Yorker cartoons, but with sentiment and an accessible sagacity, and the writing is nothing less than dreamy.

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