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August Books: An Assortment of Wheels

By on August 6, 2014

by Meribeth C. Shank

Summertime in the city is often marked by construction and repair work. A child can easily become fascinated, stopping to watch machines at work. Following up with books that connect children to what captivates them can nourish their curiosity, excite their imaginations and help them to better understand themselves and our world.

Truck Stop

BOOKS-truckstopby Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Melissa Iwai.

It’s before sun-up, and a young boy describes how he and his parents arrive to get breakfast ready at their truck stop. Meanwhile Uncle Marty opens up the service garage for repairs. Every day they serve the people who drive eighteen-wheelers, tankers, moving vans, tow trucks and other vehicles along the highway.

Each person who stops is known, not only by name, but also by his or her preferred foods: Coffee and doughnuts for Maisie, who drives the tank truck carrying milk; sausage and pancakes for Diligent Dan, driver of the moving van. But no one has seen Green Gus in his old pickup today.

There’s plenty of action as big trucks and small roll in. Headlights flash and wheels rumble. The everyday whiff of diesel fuel from the trucks is a familiar smell. So are the usual hot coffee and sizzling food aromas.

When the Big Yellow Bus comes, it is time for the young narrator to go to school.  On the way, he sees the missing Green Gus along the side of the road. He asks the bus driver to call the truck stop for help. He knows Pete and Priscilla’s Tow Truck will come.  Uncle Marty will fix Green Gus. “And the driver will have bacon and eggs sunny side up.”

Iwai’s colorful acrylics with india ink and cut paper illustrations create textures to match the text. Swinging doors, pouring coffee, people waving to each other fill the bright pages with movement and activity. Even though the trucks and drivers go on their way, tomorrow will be another chance to greet each other again. Good friends and good food frame the sense of a caring community in this reassuring story. Viking, $16.99 (hardcover) Interest Level:  Pre-Kindergarten–Grade 1 (This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

Machines Go To Work in the City

BOOKS-machinescityby William Low

This beautifully designed picture book is a sequel to Low’s Machines Go to Work. Once again he matches each vehicle with an identifying sound. Trucks and cranes, trains and planes, accompanied by the people who drive them, help to keep the city working.

Low’s simple straightforward text includes a question, focusing attention on each machine. Interestingly, the answer is always “No.” However, it is followed by a short explanation. The associated foldout page further enlarges the view.

Morning begins with a garbage truck. Following through the day are a train, vacuum and bucket trucks, and a crane. A rosy sunset sky concludes the book while a baggage carrier services a plane. The plane takes off as night falls for busy machines and tired workers. An expanded panorama of the city unfolds, promising that tomorrow, “they will go to work again.”

Pages at the end include smaller labeled images of the machines with brief descriptions to help with likely questions. Henry Holt, $16.99 (hardcover) Interest Level:  Pre-Kindergarten–Grade 3 (This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

Digger, Dozer, Dumper

BOOKS-diggerby Hope Vestergaard, illustrations by David Slonim.

Young readers are introduced to a variety of working vehicles in this picture book of rhyming poems. From early morning street sweeper and garbage truck, to backhoe, bulldozer, and cement mixer, the poems are rhythmic and easy to read out loud. Fire truck, ambulance and tow truck are ready to rescue: “Bent your fender? Lost your way?/Tow truck’s here to save the day.”

Children, with a refreshing mix of skin color and gender, drive the 16 working machines: among these are steamroller, forklift and snowplow.

The cheerful acrylic and charcoal paintings highlight the action in the companion poems. Additionally, expressive headlight eyes on each featured vehicle continually keep the reader’s attention. The final illustration flips the relationship of child to machine: showing the children playing with their toy-sized vehicles. As a collection of poems, this book is creative, well constructed and absorbing. Candlewick Press, $15.99 (hardcover) Interest Level: Kindergarten–Grade 2 (This book is on order and soon available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Branch, West Dade Regional. Also may be purchased from Books & Books online:

More titles to try:

Speed by Nathan Clement. Boyds Mills Press, $16.95 (hardcover) Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten–Grade 3 (This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

Night Light by Nicholas Blechman. Orchard Books, $16.99 (hardcover) Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten–Grade1 (This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

Zoom! Zoom! Sounds of Things That Go in the City by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Tad Carpenter. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (hardcover) Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten–Grade 2 (This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

Here Comes Firefighter Hippo by Jonathan London, illustrated by Gilles Eduar. Boyds Mills Press, $15.95 (hardcover) Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten–Grade 1 (This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

Meribeth Shank works in the Media Center at Miami Country Day School, an independent school in Miami Shores, Florida, teaches classes on Writing Books for Children, and earned her MFA in Writing for children from Vermont College. You can also find her on the web:


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