Here’s hoping readers don’t need to learn from Betty’s lesson on their own first days, but Tractor Mac and his friends have...

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TRACTOR MAC SCHOOL DAY

From the Tractor Mac series

Betty is a nervous bus who has a tough first day, but with the help of Tractor Mac and friends, she finds the courage to try again.

When Betty drops the last students off at the farm stand, she relates to Tractor Mac and his friends how terrible the day has been: She got lost, forgot some stops, and didn’t use her signals, and the other buses were unkind to her. She doesn’t want to go back. But her friends (both male and female) help build up her confidence by addressing each of her difficulties in turn, giving her the knowledge and practice she needs to be successful the next day. Steers nicely folds in some learning as well, having Betty, who is labeled the “C” bus and is the third to line up (as Sam the ram says, it’s the third letter of the alphabet), think of words that begin with C that will help her succeed. Tractor Mac throws in a final lesson: “If we make mistakes, it’s proof that we’re trying….That’s how we learn.” That may not be true in every case, but it certainly fits this tale. The watercolor-and-pencil illustrations are full of details, especially on the anthropomorphized vehicles, and the expressive farm animals will delight.

Here’s hoping readers don’t need to learn from Betty’s lesson on their own first days, but Tractor Mac and his friends have some good advice for kids to store away for a rainy day. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-30635-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message.

ELBOW GREASE

If it first you don’t succeed, try getting hit by lightning.

The smallest of his four brothers, Elbow Grease is an electric-powered monster truck with big dreams. Each one of his brothers is tougher, faster, smarter, or braver than he is, but at least he’s got enough “gumption” to spare. That comes in handy when he rushes off to join a Grand Prix in a fit of pique. And while in the end he doesn’t win, he does at least finish thanks to a conveniently placed lightning bolt. That inspires the true winner of the race (Elbow Grease’s hero, Big Wheels McGee) to declare that it’s gumption that’s the true mark of a winner. With his emphasis on trying new things, even if you fail, Cena, a professional wrestler and celebrity, earnestly offers a legitimately inspiring message even if his writing borders on the pedestrian. Fortunately McWilliam’s illustrations give a great deal of life, emotion, action, and mud splatters to the middling text. Humans are few and far between, but the trucks’ keeper, Mel the mechanic, is pictured as a brown-skinned woman with glasses.

Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7350-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Though it’s on the long side, Moore’s tale combines traditional themes and spritely illustrations to create a satisfying,...

CAPTAIN CAT

This quirky tale has something for everyone: an adventurous sea captain, a mysterious island, mounds of treasure, a spunky princess, handsome sailors, charming cats (who are also ruthless hunters), and a clever, if not entirely intentional, comeuppance for a band of greedy merchants.

The lengthy text covers a fair amount of time and distance in a conversational tone that suits the story’s origin as an “old Italian tale” (according to the flyleaf; there is no other source note). Captain Cat’s business sense, according to his colleagues, is sadly lacking, as he cheerfully trades goods of great value for his feline friends. Moreover, his urge to explore eventually sends him off in the opposite direction from the traditional trade routes. Ironically, he winds up on an island where his cats are more precious than gold—and where they are more than happy to settle down. Captain Cat, on the other hand, continues to sail, first back to his home port, where his wealth dazzles the other merchants, and then on across the open seas. Moore’s mixed-media illustrations have the appearance of pen and ink and watercolor. A preponderance of mostly muted blues, greens, browns and tans create convincing watery vistas and rocky beaches as well as a plethora of cheerful-looking, big-eyed cats.

Though it’s on the long side, Moore’s tale combines traditional themes and spritely illustrations to create a satisfying, offbeat adventure. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6151-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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