round, round, get around, I get around…five revved up books motoring your way

five trucks cover image brian flocaFive Trucks, written and illustrated by Brian Floca
orig. published in 1999; reprinted in 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Ever sit with a child by those massive airport windows, watching a flock of oddly-shaped trucks motoring importantly about? Hugely engaging.

Now you can get right up close to five drivers and their way-cool trucks. Come on down to the tarmac. What do the trucks look like? How do they move? What jobs are they doing?

five trucks illustration brian floca

You all know I love Brian Floca’s work. Here, he takes technical material and magically spins it into preschool candy with minimal text, intriguing, not-too-complicated renderings of the vehicles, friendly drivers, dashes of humor, and a soaring finale. He also quietly introduces the proper names for these specialized trucks, which even very young vehicle-experts will love to know. As always, I thoroughly admire his compositions and watercolor gorgeousness.

It’s an excellent choice for ages 2 and up. Thanks to Floca’s Caldecott medal this year, they’ve brought this one back into print, so please take advantage!

my bus cover imageMy Bus, written and illustrated by Byron Barton
published in 2014 by Greenwillow Books

Joe is a busdriver.

The bus he drives is as fat and orange as a sweet pot of marmalade!

As Joe tootles along the cheery road to town, he picks up passengers. Five dogs and five cats to be exact.  When his jolly bus is full-up, he my bus back cover image byron bartonbegins dropping his passengers at their stops. Some go to the harbor to sail away on a snappy red boat. Some board a canary-yellow train. Some fly off in a stout little plane. One dog doesn’t get off at any of the stops. Where could he be going?

Dazzling color. Chunky shapes. Charming scenes. Vehicles + dogs + cats. And lots of chances to count. This book is preschool brilliance. Byron Barton’s many, jolly titles are widely available as board books. This 2014 title is only in hardcover at this point. Check out his other work if you like this.

mr. gumpy's motor car cover imageMr. Gumpy’s Motor Car, written and illustrated by John Burningham
first published in 1973; published by Harper Collins in 1976

One of the Swanson family favorites, Mr. Gumpy is as dear as a cozy sweater; my copy is much-smudged and well-worn.

Mr. Gumpy is a plain, old, fellow. He’s gentle, matter-of-fact, and courteous.

And he has a smashing red car. It’s an old-fashioned mr. gumpy's motor car illustration2 john burningham 001jalopy with a top that folds down. When Mr. Gumpy decides to take it for a spin one day, all his friends — whom we’ve met earlier in Mr. Gumpy’s Outing — ask to come along. It’s quite a squash.

The ride is going beautifully on an old cart-track in the greenest of meadows, when unfortunately, it begins to rain. Heavily. Turning the track to muck. Mr. Gumpy’s car becomes mired in the mud and everyone has to help push. This causes quite a bit of consternation! A good team effort finally wins the day, though, and to top things off, there’s time for a nice swim!

John Burningham of the U.K.  is one of the shining lights in children’s literature, with so many wonderful books illustrated and written over his lifetime. My kids would wonder how anyone can properly grow up without Mr. Gumpy!  Read this one to ages under-Two and up, enjoy Burningham’s masterful drawing style, and make a friend of Mr. Gumpy.

giant vehicles cover imageGiant Vehicles, illustrated by Stephen Biesty, text by Rod Green
published in 2014 by Templar Books

Some of your kids are serious vehicle fanatics. This book is for them.

It introduces eight giant vehicles. These are the Empire State Buildings of vehices. The T. Rex’s. The Sequoiahs. Mammoth, King Kong, sizes.

A train that’s a mile-and-a-half long, with over a hundred cars,giant vehicles illustration by stephen biesty 001 each capable of carrying the weight of 18 elephants.
Monster passenger jets and helicopters and rockets.
A dumptruck with wheels the height of a double-decker bus.
How about a cruise ship with a zip line, surfing pools, rock-climbing walls, golf course, and ice rink…just for starters.
Ginormous submarines, and a cargo ship so utterly huge it could swallow four of those tremendously-big subs.

Each vehicle is drawn by the king of cross sections, Stephen Biesty, and stretches out across two pages. Many, many, small flaps allow us to see inside the hulls or cabs or cargo bays. This is detailed work, geared for ages 7 and up. There’s a brief description of the vehicle, plus intriguing facts and spot art strewn about the pages. For kids who love facts and stats-that-wow and superlatives — this book is tip-top.

galimoto cover imageGalimoto, by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Catherine Stock
published in 1990 by Mulberry Books

In our previous home of Guinea, as in the Malawi setting of this wonderful story, children and adults build marvelous toy vehicles out of leftover bits of wire, metal scrap, strips of rubber or cloth, bottle tops… Truly works of art, you can find them in folk art exhibits in museums, and in some import stores here in the States.

The little boy in this book, Kondi, longs to build just such a toy, called a galimoto in his language. He has been saving odd bits in an old shoe box for quite some time, but he is still short some wire. Kondi has to go to galimoto illustration catherine stock 001great lengths, has to use all his cleverness, and even endure some scoldings, in order to procure his supplies. Then, working steadily all afternoon in the shade of the flame trees, Kondi builds his dream — a pick up truck, complete with radio antenna.

When night falls and the moon shines down, Kondi proudly joins his friends in a mini-parade of galimotos. Sweet success.

This is another of our family’s best-loved books. It’s a well-written story which rings true to my kids due to their early years living in West Africa. Catherine Stock’s watercolor work is right on top of my list of favorites as well. Her warm paintings of the foliage and homes, markets and clothing, waterscapes and people of Malawi are dignified and beautiful and compelling. Ages 4 and up.