Surreally unsatisfying.

READ REVIEW

ARE WE THERE YET?

The trip to Grandma's house goes through many remarkable places.

A light-skinned child with short dark hair, surrounded by scattered toys and pictures and crayons, hardly seems ready when Mom announces that it's time to go. They're barely out of the neighborhood before the first "Are we there yet?" And that question is repeated over and over as they drive their little red car on a highway filled with various vehicles, across a long suspension bridge, and through farm country and then a desert. Even these ordinary settings have weird touches in McCauley’s vivid, posterlike double-page spreads: there’s a worm riding in a giant paper airplane near the bridge; a minotaur stands in the farm’s field; and a T. Rex looms in the desert. The locations grow quirkier, going underwater and even into outer space, where a young three-eyed extraterrestrial in a flying saucer echoes, “Are we there yet?” Finally at Grandma's house (which is surrounded by topiaries of many of the figures seen along the way), the child astonishingly pronounces the journey: "Boring." McCauley's mixed-media illustrations are bright and slyly amusing; readers will thrill at picking out the peculiar details, most of which have their roots in the child’s toys scattered at the beginning. Was the duo’s anything-but-boring journey all in the child’s head? Regardless, the cynical punch line seems to undercut what appeared to be a celebration of the boundless imagination.

Surreally unsatisfying. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-3155-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tiny tug…on the heartstrings.

SCOUT THE MIGHTY TUGBOAT

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.

BEEP BEEP BEEP TIME FOR SLEEP!

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
more