These driverless vehicles aren’t quite road ready

TESS THE TRACTOR

From the Whizzy Wheels Academy series

Another series of board books about trucks hopes to find an audience in a crowded marketplace.

The premise is simple—chunky, rather generic-looking vehicles attend Whizzy Wheels Academy to learn driving skills from their instructor, Rusty, a yellow pickup truck. Like the other vehicles in the class, red tractor Tess sports a smile between her headlights. Rusty has a mustache (maybe to make him look older?). All the trucks have large eyeballs in their windshields—Tess’ are lashed—but no drivers in sight. Tess thinks she already knows everything a tractor needs to know. She wants to go “faster.” She gets stuck in the mud and must be rescued by Rusty and Lenny the loader. This turn of events comes across as more than a bit sexist since Tess is the only female in the truck fleet (or at least the only one with eyelashes). In contrast, Fergus the Fire Engine, publishing simultaneously, gets a gold star from Rusty for rescuing a man from a burning building and putting out the fire, all without help from a firefighter. With two to eight lines of text per page, complicated storylines, and blatant character-education messages, these stories are not ideally suited for very young children and should be regarded as an additional purchase at best for older children desperate for new books about trucks.

These driverless vehicles aren’t quite road ready . (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78603-310-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: QEB Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S HALLOWEEN

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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