A shy, solitary old man finds friendship and community when he decorates cars in this charming children’s picture book.
No one notices elderly, quiet Arthur Zarr until he embarks on a creative enterprise involving modified “art cars,” but soon, he gets the whole neighborhood involved. It all starts when he discovers a large acorn and decides to display it on the hood of his car. No one notices his first foray into car décor, but it does kindle his own interest. Before long, his car sports tin cans on the front bumper and a blue, smiley-face ball on the antenna. When he drives to his local farmers market, he receives smiles and some daisies to put in his bumper’s tin cans. “Pretty soon, more people began to notice Arthur and his not-so-plain car,” says the narrator, and more decorations come his way, including dangly earrings, a plastic flamingo wearing goggles, old neckties, coins, and a jack-in-the-box. When Arthur competes in an “Art Car Parade” down Main Street, all his new friends, young and old, cheer him on before the story’s touching finale. Author Nickell (Uniting Faith, Medicine and Healthcare, 2015) has fun with the art-car concept while also offering a gentle subtext about the importance of community and human connection and the enriching value of artistic expression. Illustrator Megenhardt’s (The Jolly Dinosaur Carnival, 2015, etc.) pleasing illustrations stretch across each page in an imaginative mix of gray and brightly colored pencil as Arthur’s happiness grows and as his car becomes more outlandish. A page of information about art cars, art parades, and the Art Car Museum in Houston follows the story, along with a two-page illustration that features each of Arthur’s car decorations as a letter of the alphabet.
This tale’s light humor and unexpected premise will encourage empathy and appreciation for artistic flights of fancy.