My three year old grandson loves “things that go.” Here are three books perfect for him and other fans of cars, trucks, trains, and buses.
All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle (Henry Holt: 2017) is set in Cuba and narrated by a boy who is going with his family to a party for his newborn cousin. But first, he and his father have to fix their 1950s era car. The book is full of wonderful onomatopoeia and is fun to read aloud. It has wonderful illustrations of Cuban cityscapes and country scenes (researched on location, as the illustrator’s note at the back explains) and of the many, many old cars that still drive on Cuban streets. I loved the focus on the inventiveness required by the boy and his father to keep the car running. It reminded me of a mechanic I knew in the Netherlands. He had also been a mechanic in Ivory Coast. When I asked him which he preferred, he said, “Here, you just order a part and put it in. But there it was more interesting because you had to figure out how to solve it without a new part.” Hooray for human resourcefulness! (And don’t skip the gorgeous endpapers–covered with drawings of many different models of vintage cars seen on Cuban streets.)
Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2017) is a picture book biography of the beloved author and illustrator of such classics as Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House. The book shows Jinnee–as she was called–drawing vehicles for her transport-mad sons. I love how the story evoked the books that I knew so well as a child. I’m not sure how fun the book would be to read if you didn’t know at least a few Virginia Lee Burton titles–but who doesn’t? And what a great addition this title would be to an author study. John Rocco, the illustrator, does a great job of paying homage to Burton’s work while creating his own distinctive illustrations.
Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton, illustrated by Victo Ngai (Millbrook: 2017) is one of my favorite books yet by Chris Barton. He explains in clear, bouncy prose the Navy’s attempt to confuse submariners by painting their ships in wild, exotic patterns. I love how the book opens. We see a spread with scores of gun-metal gray warships and one extravagantly striped and colored ship. The text reads, “One of the ships on this page is painted in sneaky, stripy camouflage. You probably can’t even see it. Oh. You can see it? Hmmmmm.” The same clarity and good humor continues throughout the book, adeptly aided by the beautiful art. I was fascinated to read about the role of women in this camouflage enterprise–and in the author’s note Barton talks about how a historic photograph helped him uncover that piece of the puzzle. A book that will entrance–dazzle!–young and old readers alike.