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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Engines won’t be the only thing roaring their approval when this book hits storytime.


Who needs sanity when you’ve got family?

The title character of Elbow Grease (2018) and his family of Demolition Derby trucks return to face an all-new competitor. Once again, ’Bo is feeling inadequate next to his fan-favorite brothers. Despite Mel the Mechanic’s encouragement—he’s “the best at getting better”—he wants to be noticed. But instead, he notices someone unavoidable. Motozilla, the monster machine that turns trucks “into crunch sandwiches,” is currently undefeated. Trouble is, you’d need a truck with an array of skills to take him down. Thinking fast, ’Bo makes the wild and somewhat improbable suggestion that he and his brothers join together to form a single supertruck. Will it be enough to take down this bully? Quips, jests, and teamwork are the name of the game as pro wrestler Cena improves on his writing in this second outing, which demonstrates that individual glory falls in the face of concentrated cooperation. Rollicking, radical art portrays the battle in all its gritty glory, mud and twisted metal galore. Human crowds show a diverse range of races and genders, and the trucks’ keeper, Mel, has light-brown skin and wears glasses.

Engines won’t be the only thing roaring their approval when this book hits storytime. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7353-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Extremely simple and rather sweet.


From the Bulldozer series

Bulldozer is worried about what to give his friends for Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, Dump Truck is carrying, Digger Truck is stringing, and Crane Truck is lifting—all in service of decorating for Christmas. But Bulldozer is on the side, surrounded by cats, worrying. He has not a single gift for his friends. What can he do? He sees a tire half buried in the snow and wonders what other treasures might be there. He starts to dig, and he hits something…but it turns out to be junk. He keeps on digging and finds something else: “more junk.” He keeps digging and digging. The piles grow larger, the sky gets darker, and Bulldozer’s hope fades. But then he thinks he sees something through the snow. He pokes the pile of junk this way and that. He adds bits and pieces. As his friends call out to him that it’s quitting time, Bulldozer puts last touches on his gift. He moves aside to reveal his creation to his friends, and all are pleased with the gift. The little yellow Bulldozer with his entourage of animal friends is a likable character whose plight children will relate to and whose noncommercial solution is a model for creative youngsters to take as inspiration. Best for wrapping a message of giving within a truck-loving package full of sound effects. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Extremely simple and rather sweet. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3820-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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