Preschoolers will most likely warm to the good-natured competition between car and train, and parents and teachers will...


The usually dynamic McMullan duo (I Stink!, 2002) stalls with their sixth title, which stars an uber-confident train that accepts a challenge to race an equally self-assured sports car.

Before the trek from Sacramento to Chicago can begin, the freight is loaded with a boisterous call-and-response rhythm: “LUMBER? FLATCAR! YARD CREW? Hop to! / BRICKS? GONDOLA! STEEL? COIL CAR! GAS? TANK CAR! // GRAVEL BIN? Open the HATCH! HOPPER? Catch!” Then they are off: the car vrooming and the train hurtling with a “Chooka chooka chooka chooka.” The freight train impresses as it tunnels through rock, plows through snow and zooms past traffic, all the while pulling cars full of everything from frozen treats to pizza ingredients. The illustrations have a pleasingly retro touch. The sleek, red car contrasts nicely with the hulking, bright-blue mass of the freight engine as they traverse full-bleed spreads drenched in saturated colors of the landscape. Words flash in various bright hues accenting the many sound effects that comprise most of the frenetic text. This textual energy works well from a compositional standpoint, but it does pose difficulties for reading aloud. This, combined with a certain sense of overfamiliarity, keeps the book from rising to the top.

Preschoolers will most likely warm to the good-natured competition between car and train, and parents and teachers will appreciate the friendly conclusion. But for those looking for a standout title in the multitude of things-that-go stories, there is little here that would warrant a repeat journey. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-192085-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tiny tug…on the heartstrings.


A perky little tug puts her brawn, and brains, to good use.

“[C]hugging through the waves on the bright blue water,” a little tugboat named Scout starts her day. Whether it’s a container ship, a cruise ship, or a freighter, she’s always there to help. But what’s this? A massive oil tanker’s engine has failed, and it’s headed toward the rocks. Scout tries to help, but the scope of the endeavor overwhelms her. Eschewing the go-it-alone attitude of the Little Engine That Could, Scout realizes that this is one job too big. She calls upon her fellow tugs to lend a hand, showing that sometimes it takes a crew. No doubt young fans of things that float will find much to enjoy, as this cozy maritime tale offers just enough mild thrills to excite without alarm. Adult readers will probably feel even more keenly than their children the danger posed by the drifting oil tanker (particularly when they notice the dolphins, the pelican, the gull, the fish, and even the rather small whale that also inhabit the harbor). They may also note with pleasure that the book’s gendered ships are always identified as female, in keeping with nautical convention. The unchallenging cartoon art featuring anthropomorphic boats pleases without surprising.

A tiny tug…on the heartstrings. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7264-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Four-wheeled fun, if a little unbalanced.


The big trucks work hard all day, and at night they sleep, just like us.

Near the highway, as vehicles “vroooom” by, big trucks are busy building a road. “Digger’s sharp teeth hit the earth. / He’s clawing holes for all he’s worth.” Backhoe “jolts and judders,” making the “whole road shudder.” Dump truck carries away heaps of earth. Grader has a “giant blade,” which “gets the sticky asphalt laid.” Concrete mixer turns sand, gravel, and cement, churning them into the new road’s surface. “Dusty plow truck at the double. / Tips his load of stones and rubble.” Last of all comes “huge road roller,” with big impressive wheels, to give the new highway a smooth surface. There’s a double gatefold at the center of the book, giving a panoramic view of all seven colorful trucks, hard at work. After a hard day, the trucks take the exit ramp off to bed. A good rub with a cleaning brush, a cooling spray, and it’s time to rest. “All tucked safely in their yard / they snuggle down, they’ve worked so hard.” Freedman’s crisp and accessible verse is the perfect complement to Smythe’s bright and blocky illustrations, which have a toddler-friendly Lego or Playskool feel. While construction workers and passers-by of both genders and diverse skin tones populate the pages, all the trucks are gendered male—an odd disconnect.

Four-wheeled fun, if a little unbalanced. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9011-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet