Takes credit away from the human bus drivers, who deserve a book of their own.

READ REVIEW

I'M SMART!

As Adam Rex and Christian Robinson’s School’s First Day of School (2016) gave readers a school building’s point of view, the McMullans now give kids a peek inside the mind of a school bus.

This bus is bold and in-your-face, trying almost too hard to be cool; it’s a persona that slightly clashes with the bus’ sway back, toothy grille grin, and huge windshield eyes. “Who am I? / Smarter than a rocket scientist, / More powerful than a monster truck, / able to halt traffic with the flick of a switch.” This bus only has three stops (shown on an aerial view of the town), so riders board in long lines. Other than noting that cars have to slow down for the bus’s amber flashing lights and stop for the red ones (or else get a ticket, as one speeding auto does), there are no safety rules here. The bus does have to wait its turn to get by a construction area, and it keeps the kids from getting rowdy by asking them questions: a raised hand signals yes. Another staple of bus riding gets a spread: going over a bump. In Jim McMullan’s watercolor illustration, the bus is shown in profile with the side removed, and the kids are hovering above their seats, motion lines showing the bounce and smiles on their faces. All in all, this feels like a pale dilution of the creators’ zippy first in this series, I Stink! (2002).

Takes credit away from the human bus drivers, who deserve a book of their own. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-244923-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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Slight and contrived.

LITTLE TACO TRUCK

A little orange food truck parks in the same place every day, bringing tacos to hungry construction workers—till one morning, a falafel truck takes his spot.

Miss Falafel then brings by more of her friends, crowding out the taco truck. Little Taco Truck whines and cries, but after four days of being shut out by the bigger trucks, he finally takes the initiative. He spends the night in his former parking space, defending his territory when the other trucks arrive. The rest immediately apologize, and after some creative maneuvering, everyone fits—even the newly arrived noodle truck. Valentine’s naïve call for cooperation glosses over the very real problem of urban gentrification represented by the flood of bigger and better-equipped trucks taking over the neighborhood. When the taco truck is the only game in town, the food line consists of hard-hatted construction workers. Then, as falafel, arepa, gelato, hot dog, and gumbo trucks set up shop, professionals and hipsters start showing up. (All the customers are depicted as animals.) The author also inadvertently equates tacos with a lack of sophistication. “ ‘Hola, Miss Fal…Fal…’ Little Taco Truck tried to sound out the words on the side of the other truck.” Sadly, the truck sells Americanized crisp-shelled tacos. Even the glossary ignores the culinary versatility and cultural authenticity of the soft taco with this oversimplified and inaccurate definition: “A crispy Mexican corn pancake folded or rolled around a filling of meat, beans, and cheese.”

Slight and contrived. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6585-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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