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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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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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Young fans of Pippi Longstocking will admire this budding eco-warrior, both for his independence and his determination to...


In a set of popular tales from a Hans Christian Andersen Award–winning author, a young lad arrives in town with nothing but a tow truck and finds a home as well as friends both human and animal.

First published beginning in 1971 but available in the United States for the first time, the 40 episodic chapters largely chronicle a series of rescues. Hardly has Pluck (originally “Pluk”) settled into a vacant apartment atop the Pill Building than he’s saved shy cockroach Zaza from poisoning, gotten young neighbor Aggie away from her neatnik mother, and rescued Dizzy, a squirrel afraid of heights, from a treetop. With his red truck and help from adult friends, plus a sea gull with a wooden leg, an invisible Tootenlisp that lives in a seashell, a pigeon that can poop with pinpoint accuracy, and the aptly named Stampers—six rambunctious boys and their single dad—he goes on to other exploits. These include plucking a sea gull from an oil slick, preventing a patch of woodland from being paved over, and responsibly chopping down a magic bush whose berries make grown-ups ignore fires and other emergencies in favor of horsing around like children. Westendorp, the original illustrator, adds jaunty, full-color scenes featuring an all-white cast of dot-eyed (usually) cartoon figures in mid-20th-century dress. A surprise birthday party for Pluck brings most of the cast back onstage one final time.

Young fans of Pippi Longstocking will admire this budding eco-warrior, both for his independence and his determination to help others in need. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78269-112-9

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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