CONESTOGA WAGONS

In a tribute to “the tractor-trailers of their time,” the author describes in loving detail the history and value of the uniquely designed Conestoga wagon. From 1750 to 1850, the Conestoga was king, and sometimes as many as 3,000 wagons a day traveled between Philadelphia and Lancaster as well as west to Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. They carried as much as five tons of cargo: loads of bacon, butter, cider, flour, rope, tools, mail, coal, and more from port cities to settlements throughout Pennsylvania along what would become the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Ammon (An Amish Year, 1999, etc.) explains in detail how the wagon was built by hand, including shaping the wooden body, waterproofing the linen cover with linseed oil or beeswax, forging the iron rim to the wooden wheel of 14 or 16 spokes, attaching the end gate, and setting the hitch for easy hauling of heavy loads. Readers will learn how advanced this wagon was; for instance, it was the only one to have brakes. Several contemporary expressions derive from those wagon days: “Mind your P’s and Q’s,” “I’ll be there with bells on,” and “teamster.” While the text is rich in detail, the paintings by the illustrator of Robert Fulton: From Submarine to Steamboat (1999) provide a dreamy contrast. In muted sepia and gold, or muted blues and grays, they hint of times past, but occasionally miss some of the clear details the viewer longs for, given the superbly precise text. Still this is a strikingly well-done essay on a slice of Americana seldom told and well worth exploring. (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8234-1475-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

THUNDER FROM THE SEA

ADVENTURE ON BOARD THE HMS DEFENDER

A fast-paced and fact-laced tale framed in graphic panels puts a young orphan aboard a British frigate for a spot of blockade duty—climaxed by a brisk exchange with a French three-decker and the fiery destruction of an enemy shipyard. Rated “Boy, Third Class,”12-year-old Jack reports for duty with his lubberly head filled with heroic visions. Months of hard chores and gun drills later, he’s ready to measure up when the Defender sails into an ambush engineered by a turncoat crewmember. Though Weigel isn’t much for natural-sounding dialogue (“The Admiralty’s hoping to box up the Frenchies in their ports so they can’t mount an invasion of England,” explains an avuncular bosun) he fills the side margins on each page of his action-packed, realistically detailed cartoon scenes with pithy comments on naval argot and discipline, historical background, warfare, weapons and nautical lore. Though it may be a stretch for the episode’s likely audience to move on, as the author recommends at the end, to C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian, Jack’s adventures will leave readers in the proper tar-and-gunpowder frame of mind. (resource list) (Graphic fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-399-25089-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

TEENY TINY TRUCKS

A picture-book favorite despite minor flaws? That’s a 10-4, good buddy.

In McCanna and Frawley’s cheery picture-book debut, miniscule vehicles drive into supersized action.

Accompanied by a bouncy rhyme, several brightly colored trucks rumble through the garden: the lead red-and-blue truck, the more feminine purple truck and the gridlock-loathing aqua truck. Though the color palette and cartoon appearance of the nameless vehicles may seem like a carbon copy of Disney’s Cars (2006), illustrator Frawley has included humorous details for each truck, giving them life beyond their big-screen predecessors. For instance, the red-and-blue truck has jaunty eyebrows created from roof lights, the purple truck’s short bursts of steam look like daisies, and the aqua truck’s expressive eyebrows are actually wiper blades. The illustrations help tell a hilarious story, most notably of a traffic jam featuring a frog, slug and worm who are clearly not amused by the crowded garden path. McCanna similarly handles the text well. The rhythmic pattern is clear, most of the rhyme is spot-on—“Teeny tiny tires. With teeny tiny treads. / Leaving teeny tiny trails between the flower beds”—and the story begs to be read aloud to a group. Typical trucker talk is included in the dialogue—“Breaker breaker, Buddy!” “What’s your twenty, Friend?”—and the lingo is explained in a short glossary at the end of the story. Though the premise is amusing, the proportion of the trucks in relation to their surroundings can be a bit inconsistent. Most images depict the trucks, which are “smaller than a dime,” as being only marginally bigger than ants and bees, yet other images portray the trucks as being much larger—almost half as long as a box of animal crackers. Nevertheless, this delightful story will charm truck-loving children.

A picture-book favorite despite minor flaws? That’s a 10-4, good buddy.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989668811

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Bahalia Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2013

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