A refreshing and fun reimagining of the traditional board-book format.

DRIVE THE FIRE TRUCK

This board book puts readers behind the steering wheel of a fire truck on the way to an emergency.

When closed, the book forms a semicircle with the binding as the straight edge; opening it to the first page reveals two cutout handles on either side of what is now a circular book. With gauges and controls across the bottom, the perspective allows readers to imagine they are holding the steering wheel and driving a fire truck. The first page shows the rising garage door, and the subsequent pages have the truck approaching billowing smoke that comes into view ever closer and clearer. The rhyming text includes commands that urge readers to “push” the buttons on the steering wheel. For example, “Park the truck, extend the ladder” encourages readers to touch the yellow ladder control. The novelty of the perspective is thrilling fun for toddlers. Following the directions in the text, including which way to turn, helps bring the story to life. The illustrations are simple and bold, with added touches that highlight certain focal points such as yellow lightning bolts coming from the crackling radio. There are only a few pages where firefighters are shown, but the characters depicted vary in gender and racial presentation. Companion title Drive the Race Car puts readers into a high-speed race, complete with a pit stop and a checkered-flag win.

A refreshing and fun reimagining of the traditional board-book format. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7885-1

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A Christmas train book that gets derailed by a lacking story arc.

SANTA AND THE GOODNIGHT TRAIN

From the The Goodnight Train series

Not quite the Polar Express….

Sobel’s rhyming text fails to deliver a clear premise for the eponymous goodnight train’s Christmas Eve progress through the pages, and Huliska-Beith’s acrylic paintings embellished with fabric and paper collage don’t clarify the storytelling. At the start of the picture book, a bevy of anthropomorphic animals decorates a rather rickety-looking engine, and then human children gather around and pile into train cars that look like beds and cribs. The train follows a track, seemingly in pursuit of Santa’s sleigh, but to what end isn’t clear. They travel “through a town of gingerbread” and through the woods to find the sleigh blocking the tracks and the reindeer snoozing while, mystifyingly, Santa counts some sheep. Perching the sleigh on the train’s cowcatcher, they all proceed to the North Pole, where the “elves all cheer. / Santa’s here until next year!” But then the goodnight train just…leaves, “heading home on Christmas Eve.” Was this a dream? It definitely wasn’t a story with a satisfying beginning, middle, and end. Santa’s face is never seen; the human children and elves are diverse.

A Christmas train book that gets derailed by a lacking story arc. (Picture book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-61840-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A ferociously entertaining blend of wonder, thrills, and science.

DINOSAUR ADVENTURE

From the Zoom series

Young explorers risk prehistoric perils and cataclysmic destruction to learn about the dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous.

Best friends Jasmine (who has brown skin and wears dark hair in a braid) and Jamie (who presents White and has a thatch of brown hair) set their time machine for the days of the dinosaurs, go exploring, and make it home in time for dinner. This well-constructed board book is both visually engaging and as rich in information as it is in adventure. It features 17 different two-page set pieces, 24 distinctly labeled prehistoric creatures, creative die cuts offering tantalizing peeks at what lies beyond each turn of the page, and a spectacular pop-up of the asteroid that caused the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. The adventurers journey through or over habitats ranging from jungles, swamps, deserts, plains, and oceans and fly through the air and dive in the sea with the help of a friendly pterosaur and elasmosaurus, respectively. The featured creatures are all Age-appropriate, as is the asteroid. The two friends are cool and cavalier about tracking T. rex and chasing Velociraptor. Caregivers might want to caution their charges that, if or when they get their time machines working, they should exercise appropriate caution when approaching powerful, carnivorous eating machines. Companion volume Rainforest Adventure stars a light-brown–skinned girl named Lin and is a similarly engaging and informative trek down the Amazon and, once again, home by dinner. Both offer inspiration for inquisitive young adventurers everywhere.

A ferociously entertaining blend of wonder, thrills, and science. (Board book. 1-5)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-912920-46-4

Page Count: 36

Publisher: What on Earth Books

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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Truck lovers of any gender will find this title a treat, but the hyperfeminine companion is sadly restrictive.

LOVE IS A TRUCK

Richly textured board pages and a limited color palette distinguish this tribute to trucks.

The gray buckram cover is a delight to hold, while bright red endpapers promise excitement within. Beautifully designed using shades of red, black, white, and brown on matte pages, the whole package has a retro, letterpress feel. The first truck is a firetruck big enough for a brown-skinned child to straddle. Later pages feature construction vehicles, a flatbed trailer, and an ice cream truck. The slight text has a lyrical quality, though the occasional rhymes seem accidental. Relatively abstract concepts are casually introduced, “Love is a kid who lines them all up. Biggest to smallest, color by color.” On the final page the brown-skinned child is kissed goodnight while clutching a truck under a road-patterned blanket. The main character wears plaid bib overalls and has longish curly hair. Another child, also brown-skinned, with close-cropped hair, plays with the construction trucks, shares a treat from the ice cream truck, and offers a goodnight kiss. Unfortunately, a less gender-neutral companion volume, Love Is a Tutu, clearly aims for the ballerina market with an excess of pink. Together the two books assure little girls they can love both tutus and trucks. Unfortunately, they send a mixed message to little boys.

Truck lovers of any gender will find this title a treat, but the hyperfeminine companion is sadly restrictive. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-937359-86-7

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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