Zach, my busy 16-month-old grandson, brakes for vehicle books. When the adults around him run out of gas, fueling his book obsession gives everyone a needed pit stop. Lately I’ve been tanking up on current titles.
Zach has asked for Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s “Race Car Counts” (Holt, ages 18 months-4) so many times that his 4-year-old sister can “read” him the entire book.
The story zips into action as the title page announces, “Red light, yellow light, green light, GO!” A green racer with a smiling grille idles above the opening sentence, “Race Car 1 honks, Look at me, he zooms in front with the turn of a key.” This racer paves the way for eight more personified cars, repeatable rhyming couplets, bright colors and fast pacing.
Zach’s other favorite humanized truck is Stephen Savages’s “Supertruck” (Roaring Brook, ages 18 months-5 years), a mild-mannered garbage truck hiding behind Clark Kent-style glasses. When a blizzard strikes, the unassuming truck adds a snowplow, changes into Supertruck, and digs out the city and all the other trucks before returning to his secret identity. The spare text is completed by dramatic pictures.
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In Kersten Hamilton’s “Yellow Copter” (ages 18 months-4), another smiling hero saves a teacher from atop a Ferris wheel. Helicopter noises, rhyming text and bright yellows aid understanding of the copter’s function.
Zach was an immediate fan of Brian Floca’s “Five Trucks” (Atheneum, ages 18 months-3). All of the five are introduced simply and spatially. The first truck, large and heavy, fills a page while the second, “small and quick,” speeds off into a distant corner of the page. Mid-book the trucks are named, their purposes revealed and a countdown begins as they prepare a plane for takeoff. With minimal text, Floca manages to include counting up and down, describing the roles of airport trucks, and a wordless story of a young boy’s journey.
Noises abound in Scholastic’s Early Learner’s “Noisy Touch and Lift Truck” (Scholastic 2-4). Made for small fingers, the thick board book pages are bright with photographs of a truck, tractor, dump truck and fire engine. Lifting flaps and pressing buttons results in the noise-making for each truck.
Three rhyming vehicle books are new in board book format: Mark Todd’s word-rich “Monster Trucks!” celebrates dump, garbage and tanker trucks (Houghton, ages 2-5); Toni Buzzeo & Jim Datz’s “Whose Truck?” (Abrams, ages 3-5) give hints about the trucks’ owners that are revealed by lifting flaps; and Mark Lee’s humorous counting story shows a small boy untangling a huge traffic snarl in “20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street” (Candlewick, ages3-5).
Three more books are parked in my closet, waiting for Zach to get a little older before test driving them. Kate and Jim McMullan’s “I’m Cool” (Balzer and Bray, ages 4-6) features a Zamboni, the eighth in a series of attitudinal anthropomorphized trucks who brag on their talents. And if this passion still drives him as he ages, there’s Stephen Biesty’s intricate illustrations in Rod Green’s “Giant Vehicles” and Emergency Vehicles” (Templar, ages 5-8).