A deserving if not divine little book, worthy of its pint-sized enthusiasts

THE LITTLE FIRE TRUCK

Clearly The Little Dump Truck (2009) and The Little School Bus (2014) were just the prelude to Cuyler and Kolar’s most ambitious project yet.

“Perky” would not be a poor way of describing the little fire truck that shuttles its white driver, Jill, and her racially diverse fire crew all over town. Each rhyming stanza, one per spread, begins with the line “I’m a little fire truck” then proceeds in a standard abcb rhyme scheme. After rescuing a cat, the firefighters must contend with a burning building. Happily it just takes a couple “splish-splosh” squirts of the fire hose to put everything right. Aimed at toddlers and younger preschoolers, the art proves to be just as simple as the text. The digital illustrations keep the color bright, the anthropomorphized truck perky, and the situations shy of scary. Cuyler even opts to ensure that the burning building is pet- and baby-free. When it comes to true firefighting enthusiasts, more is always better, hence the endpapers’ impressive (not to mention diverse and gender-inclusive) visual dictionary of terms. (Front and rear are identical.) Alas, no fire-safety tips are included aside from the visual image of Jill and crew crawling along the floor, so continue to turn to Mike Austin’s Fire Engine No. 9 (2015) as the industry standard.

A deserving if not divine little book, worthy of its pint-sized enthusiasts . (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-805-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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Truck lovers of any gender will find this title a treat, but the hyperfeminine companion is sadly restrictive.

LOVE IS A TRUCK

Richly textured board pages and a limited color palette distinguish this tribute to trucks.

The gray buckram cover is a delight to hold, while bright red endpapers promise excitement within. Beautifully designed using shades of red, black, white, and brown on matte pages, the whole package has a retro, letterpress feel. The first truck is a firetruck big enough for a brown-skinned child to straddle. Later pages feature construction vehicles, a flatbed trailer, and an ice cream truck. The slight text has a lyrical quality, though the occasional rhymes seem accidental. Relatively abstract concepts are casually introduced, “Love is a kid who lines them all up. Biggest to smallest, color by color.” On the final page the brown-skinned child is kissed goodnight while clutching a truck under a road-patterned blanket. The main character wears plaid bib overalls and has longish curly hair. Another child, also brown-skinned, with close-cropped hair, plays with the construction trucks, shares a treat from the ice cream truck, and offers a goodnight kiss. Unfortunately, a less gender-neutral companion volume, Love Is a Tutu, clearly aims for the ballerina market with an excess of pink. Together the two books assure little girls they can love both tutus and trucks. Unfortunately, they send a mixed message to little boys.

Truck lovers of any gender will find this title a treat, but the hyperfeminine companion is sadly restrictive. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-937359-86-7

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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