An endearing ode to an oft–grumbled-about profession.




Readers hear Jackhammer Sam before they see him. He’s "the sidewalk blasting man." To most, his choppa-chops are loud and obnoxious, but to him, it’s a sweet, sweet melody. As he blasts through concrete on sidewalks above and subways below, he invites readers to sing along: “ATTA-RATTA-BINGA-BONG. / ATTA-RATTA-MIGHT-BE-LONG. / ATTA-RATTA-PINGA-PONG. / ATTA-RATTA-DINGA-DONG.”  Filled with rhythmic onomatopoeia and pulsating beats, it’s no wonder Jackhammer Sam waltzes while he works. The roly-poly, lovable construction worker radiates joy, while everyone else around him jumps in surprise or winces in pain at the shattering noise. (Of course, per Catrow’s signature illustrative style, wide, bulging eyes abound.) Sam takes such pride in his work that he boasts, “My hammer broke th’ break of day. / My hammer drained the Milky Way.” Besides simply reveling in the rowdy beats, young readers should also glean that every job is important and if you love what you do, you’ll do it well.

An endearing ode to an oft–grumbled-about profession. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59643-034-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off.


This rocket hopes to take its readers on a birthday blast—but there may or may not be enough fuel.

Once a year, a one-seat rocket shoots out from Earth. Why? To reveal a special congratulatory banner for a once-a-year event. The second-person narration puts readers in the pilot’s seat and, through a (mostly) ballad-stanza rhyme scheme (abcb), sends them on a journey toward the sun, past meteors, and into the Kuiper belt. The final pages include additional information on how birthdays are measured against the Earth’s rotations around the sun. Collingridge aims for the stars with this title, and he mostly succeeds. The rhyme scheme flows smoothly, which will make listeners happy, but the illustrations (possibly a combination of paint with digital enhancements) may leave the viewers feeling a little cold. The pilot is seen only with a 1960s-style fishbowl helmet that completely obscures the face, gender, and race by reflecting the interior of the rocket ship. This may allow readers/listeners to picture themselves in the role, but it also may divest them of any emotional connection to the story. The last pages—the backside of a triple-gatefold spread—label the planets and include Pluto. While Pluto is correctly labeled as a dwarf planet, it’s an unusual choice to include it but not the other dwarfs: Ceres, Eris, etc. The illustration also neglects to include the asteroid belt or any of the solar system’s moons.

A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-18949-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Fickling/Phoenix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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As the old truck stays with its family, this charming book will stay with readers.


The eponymous old truck serves as the vehicle for a quiet story about farm life and hard work.

Brothers Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey created over 250 stamps to create the striking illustrations that give the book a distinct look and echo the message of hard work and persistence pouring from it. The declarative simplicity of the text is perfect for an emerging reader without betraying the strength of the story. As the book describes how hardworking the truck is, readers see the smiling, brown-skinned parents and daughter, wordlessly at work. The family can be seen loading produce onto the truck, carrying baskets back into the barn, feeding chickens, and fixing the truck. The placement of the sun on the horizon line demonstrates how long the family works each day. At night, the daughter dreams: "The old truck sailed the seas, / braved the skies, / and chased the stars." As the truck ages, so does the family; most notably, readers see the girl grow into a woman. Now “the new farmer,” she tows the truck out of tall grass. She works long into the night to repair it. But dreams and persistence pay off: “VROOOOOOOM!!” This heartfelt celebration of resilience in the face of change, with a determined black woman at its center, packs a powerful punch.

As the old truck stays with its family, this charming book will stay with readers. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-00519-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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