With a sprinkling of imagination, a trip to the car wash becomes an expedition to the farthest depths of the sea. The Steens use a blend of spare but evocative text—no single sentence longer than three words—and onomatopoeia to create an out-of-this-world experience. A close encounter with a mud puddle means the twins’ plans for lunch with Dad are postponed until their dirty vehicle goes through the car wash. The journey then takes a swing into the twins’ imaginative world. Soon readers are plunging into the mysterious deep where a car window becomes a porthole, frothing soap bubbles sea-spray, and the long strips of material that scrub the car turn into a towering forest of seaweed-harboring sea life both friend and foe. The Steens’ inventive use of echoism transforms the noises of a car wash into a symphony of sounds, creating a sublimely poetic experience. “Psss! Psss! Safe and sound. Bubbles dance. Beads race.” The ever-changing font size of the type, along with the casual placement of the text on the page aptly reflects the sensation of a topsy-turvy sea adventure. Karas’s brilliantly conceived collages, wrought out of found objects, pencil drawings, gouache and acrylic paints, simultaneously portray the mechanics of the car wash while conveying the full import of the twins’ imaginings: pearls become bubbles, buttons become octopus suckers, and nails become the water pipes. Readers will find these multi-textured illustrations fascinating and as imaginative as the concept. Terrific for group read-aloud sessions, the Steens’ rollicking tale gives little listeners an edge-of-their-seats adventure and they’ll be begging to peer through the “porthole” of the car, too. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23369-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Grown-ups be warned: Young fingers will delight in pressing the tractor’s buttons (and yours!) over and over.


From the I Can Learn series

Little ones can explore a day in the life of a rubber-covered, audio-enabled tractor.

The “5 noisy parts!” promised on the cover are powered by a battery embedded in the back of the book, the compartment securely screwed shut. Youngsters are prompted by the text to press various parts of the tractor to make interesting sound effects, such as an engine starting then chugging, a horn, and tire noise on muddy or rocky terrain. A large, tractor-shaped die-cut hole in every page allows children to access the vehicle on every double-page spread but leaves the left-hand pages dominated by that tractor-shaped hole. Farm animals make their signature sounds via speech bubble (horses, chicks, and cows, to name a few) along with other critters offering suggestions about which buttons on the tractor to press. For additional play value, a ladybug and a caterpillar can be spotted on every double-page spread. Labels for most of the animals appear in a clear font along with other farm-centric vocabulary words: pitchfork, seedlings, trough. Elliott’s art is busy, but the simple, eye-catching patterns and graphically clean lines in bright colors will appeal to the audience. While this offering is perfect for toddlers, the extensive warnings in the fine print on the back of the book about what may happen if the button battery is swallowed should scare adults into being vigilant. Thankfully, there is an on/off switch allowing for toggling between a quiet and noisy reading experience.

Grown-ups be warned: Young fingers will delight in pressing the tractor’s buttons (and yours!) over and over. (Novelty board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68010-669-5

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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