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CAR WASH by Sandra Steen Kirkus Star


by Sandra Steen & illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-23369-5
Publisher: Putnam

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)