Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third
Three friends, Lupe, El Chavo and Elirio, work together in a garage where they fix cars. They dream of one day having their own garage. Lupe loves working on engines and the mechanics. El Chavo washes them until they shine with his octopus arms. Elirio uses his mosquito size and his long nose to detail the cars. Their favorite kind of car are the low and slow lowriders. So when a contest with a large prize comes along, they know they have to enter. Now they just have to turn a junker into the best car in the universe, so they head into space to see what they can do. This is one unique read that combines space, cars and great friendship.
Camper incorporates Spanish into her story, firmly placing this book into the Hispanic culture. Her characters are clever done. The female in the group is the one who loves engines and mechanical things, yet is incredible feminine too. The book seems to be firmly housed on earth until one big moment launches it into outer space. The incorporation of astronomy into the design and art of the car makes for a book that is wild and great fun to read.
The illustrations by Raul Gonzalez have a cool hipness to them that is honest and without any slickness at all. Done in a limited palette of red, blue and black, the art has a vintage feel that is enhanced by the treatment of the pages with stains and aging.
This graphic novel is cool, star filled, rich with science, and has friendship at its heart. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli
Sam wins every race, so he’s not worried at all at the big race. His best friend Maggie is racing too, but Sam know that he is the best. He quickly leaves everyone behind, except for Maggie who stays right with him and then wins the race! Sam is devastated. He didn’t sleep at all before the next race and is so distracted that he’s late starting the race! Even starting after everyone else though, he quickly takes the lead. But then, he sees a flock of chicks on the roadway and though he can get around them safely, he worries about the other racers not seeing them in time. So Sam stops and saves the chicks who ride along with him to finish the race. Sam finishes last, but as he approaches the finish line he can hear people cheering – for him!
Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for his first book The Watermelon Seed, Pizzoli has a knack for using simple language for big ideas. His books are straight forward and have a classic feel about them, perfect for the smallest children. At the same time, his books are not predictable. I thought this book might deal with jealousy as its primary focus, but it changed in the middle of the book to be more about good decision making and being a good friend. I appreciate that he was able to pivot a simple story like this into something with depth. That takes real skill.
Just like his writing, Pizzoli’s art is simple. He uses strong lines and bright colors to really create a feel that is distinctly his own. This book fairly glows with yellow on the page, sunny and bright as the racers speed on the page. Other pages with different emotions have different colors, something that really works to convey a change in feeling directly.
Another winner from Pizzoli, this book will appeal to children interested in cars and racing immediately but is also a great book about making good choices. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
This collaboration between two masters of children’s poetry will transport you to new and different places. Filled with cars that are amazing and wild, the humor-filled poems will delight. Visit the times of the dinosaurs, underwater driving, cars made of paper or shoes. Even cars made from bathtubs and bugs. The poetry flows fast and furious, a perfect pace for young car enthusiasts who may be surprised at how much they enjoy poems.
Lewis and Florian write with a single hand here, the poems flowing naturally from one to the other, the styles of each forming one cohesive whole. They use humor to great effect both in the titles of the poems and throughout, delighting with puns and word play. The poems are also very brief, perfect for young readers to enjoy or even memorize.
The art by Holmes plays up the humor in the poems. His busy active style has lots of motion and zany combinations. The dinosaur car looks like it could reach right off the page and grab you, the ocean page will have you floating along merrily, and the blueprint style of the contents page sets the tone early.
Perfect poems to share aloud with a class, this one may get lost in poetry collections but marketed correctly should zoom off of library shelves. Beep beep!
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.
Bang by Leo Timmers
Using only the word “bang” throughout, this nearly-wordless picture book is a humor-filled delight. In a series of car crashes, one after another, the story is told. It all starts with a deer who isn’t paying any attention, since he’s reading this book while driving. Then comes the truck full of chickens driven by a pig. Then a fashionable giraffe in an orange sportster. A hungry alligator with a truck full of tires follows. And more and more. After each car enters the page, there is an enormous bang, and then each new car impacts all of the others in new ways. Colors change, items move from one vehicle to another, and merry chaos reigns.
Timmers fills his wordless book with wonderful details that make lingering on the pages a must. You even start guessing from the introduction of the new elements about what will happen to the other vehicles in line. The final fold-out page with all of the vehicles in a row is great fun to look at and makes for a grand finale.
Timmers’ art is quirky and bright. The vehicles are all completely unique, formatted to fit the bulk of a pig, or the height of a giraffe. The pages are filled with bright colors and lots of action. As each new vehicle comes onto the page, there is wonderful moment before you know what happens. This pacing is perfection and all thanks to the art.
Jolly and very funny, this is a picture book that children who enjoy vehicles or large crashes will adore. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.
Moo! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Told in just a couple of words, this picture book is one wild ride. When the farmer puts a sign up that says that his car is for sale, it catches the attention of a cow nearby. She jumps right in and starts off driving up hill and down: Moooooooooooooooo. But then disaster strikes: Moo! And she lands in trouble with the police. She tries to explain herself, but the officer just sends her back home, walking. When the farmer finds out, what is a cow to do? You will just have to see how this romp of a picture book ends.
The partnership between author and illustrator is so seamless that I not sure who came up with the concepts. The text in the book is entirely animal noises and is so simple that any small child will be able to read it on their own after just one shared reading. Who knew that “moo” could say so much! The illustrations are simple as well, and play up the jolly humor of the book.
A simple book perfect for storytime, expect lots of giggles on this joy ride. Appropriate for ages 1-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Red Car, Red Bus by Susan Steggall
Turn to the first page of this picture book and you will see people waiting at a bus stop. Another page turn has them aboard the bus and only two words: “Red bus.” The next page has a red car join the red bus and readers will see two people dashing for the bus stop. By the time the bus reaches its next stop, the page is filled not only with a yellow van, yellow car, the red car and the red bus, but the people running for the bus have dropped their teddy bear. As the pages turn, the road gets more crowded with vehicles and it becomes all the more fun to figure out what the story is on the side of the road. The only words in the book describe the colors of the vehicles and name the vehicles themselves, otherwise it is more of a wordless book as the complicated action takes place in pictures only.
Steggall has created a picture book that really plays with the reader. At first, I thought it was going to be a very simple color and vehicle book for toddlers, but it is something much more. The intricate cut paper illustrations tell the story along the roadside, as each page turn moves the reader further down the road. There is a wonderful sense of motion to the entire book. The vehicles appear in patterns with colors and sorts of vehicles.
This is a delight of a read, surprising in its depth and yet fully appropriate for the youngest reader who enjoys cars and trucks. This is one to linger over and discuss, talking about the story that is told wordlessly, perfect for curling up with your special little one. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Everything Goes in the Air by Brian Biggs
Brian Biggs has several new books out which is great news for youngsters who love cars, trucks and airplanes. Everything Goes in the Air takes Henry and his family on an airplane ride. Readers get to visit a bustling airport, where they can search for lost babies. From vintage airplanes to modern ones, we learn about the different parts of a place and the various types they come in. Modern airport security is explained, then the book turns to helicopters and hot air balloons. Just before takeoff, children get to see inside the cockpit and marvel at the crowded airspace. Then it’s up, up and away!
Biggs’ crowded pages show the hustle and hurry of an airport. His friendly art and seek-and-find activities will keep children busy exploring the pages. Information is given in small bits, mostly through conversations that are shown in cartoon bubbles. This is a marvelously fun and exciting way to explore airplanes and airports.
A great pick for a plane ride, or to help prepare children for an upcoming flight, this book has such detailed illustrations that it is best shared with just one child at a time. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Everything Goes: 123 Beep Beep Beep!: A Counting Book by Brian Biggs
Everything Goes: Stop! Go!: A Book of Opposites by Brian Biggs
These two board books simplify the busy style of Biggs into books that are more appropriate for toddlers. Here the bright colors and cartoon-style illustrations pop. The counting book goes up to ten, each page offering a different sort of vehicle to count. They range from RVs to busses. The opposites book again uses vehicles to show things like dirty and clean, old and new, ending with stop and go.
Very young children who enjoy cars, trucks and other vehicles will love these board books. Expect the basic text to be accompanied with lots of motor sounds from the audience! Appropriate for ages 1-3.
All items reviewed from copies received from Balzer + Bray.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce, illustrated by Joe Berger
Take a lively ride in the first follow-up to the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang book by Ian Fleming. The Tooting family have hit hard times, Mr. Tooting has lost his job. But they don’t stay down hearted for long, deciding that they should take a trip around the world. Mrs. Tooting brings home a very old and worn camping van that Mr. Tooting and Jem slowly rebuild together after taking it entirely apart. When they go looking for parts at a local junkyard, they discover an amazing racing engine and mount it on the camping van. The engine, of course, belonged to the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and now Chitty wants to get the rest of herself back together. So the family and Chitty are off on an adventure around the world to find all of her parts. This adventure will take them to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the depths of the ocean.
Boyce has moved the story into the modern age with cell phones and a contemporary family. The story pay homage to the original in many ways, foremost being the search for the parts of the original Chitty. Also, the story arc is very similar with wonderful villains who pop into the story with menacing jelly baby phones and the moment when the children are separated from their parents and have to fend for themselves. The book also has a real spirit of the first, incorporating humor throughout.
Berger’s illustrations enliven the book, showing a multi-ethnic family and making the book more approachable for young readers. They have a wonderful humor about them too, carrying the jolliness of the story into images.
The old-fashioned yet modern mix of this book is extremely appealing. The book reads quickly and is completely entertaining. Ideal for fans of the first book and sure to win new fans as well. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from library copy.
Tia Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina, illustrated by Claudio Munoz
A little girl’s Tia Isa wants to get a car in order to take the family to the beach. She wants one that is the color of the ocean with pointy wings at the back. But Tio Andres laughs at the idea, calling it “ridiculous.” They don’t have much money, but head to a car dealer where they find out they need to save more. So the little girl sets out to help. She stacks fruit at the store, feeds people’s pets, and teaches Spanish. She waits until her money sock is bulging full and then surprises her Tia Isa. Immediately, they run to the car dealer where they find just the right car way in back near the fence.
A story of family and the importance of saving money for your dreams, this book will resonate with children who are saving their money for a large purchase as well as children from families where saving money is difficult but vital. Medina writes with lovely imagery that creates a very vivid reading experience. Readers discover that Tia Isa smells of lemon pies from the bakery where she works, that the car dealer smells of tar, and that work boots resemble ogre shoes.
Munoz’s illustrations depict an urban neighborhood of apartments where neighbors help one another. There is a feeling of safety in the illustrations, offering that rare glimpse in picture books of urban life without urban decay. The illustrations of the family have that same feeling of warmth and belonging.
Dreams, savings, waiting and helping: this book speaks to all of those and ends with a refreshing ocean breeze. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by There’s a Book.
The Old Blue Pickup Truck by Candice F. Ransom, illustrated by Jenny Mattheson
This charmer of a picture book takes a day of errands and transforms it into a wonderful outing filled with surprises. Everything centers around the pickup truck and its ability to carry everything they need. It changes from a garden to a toolshed to a barnyard all in the course of their travels. Children will see their own errands in a different way after this book and will be eager to see what the truck will be filled with next.
Ransom has created prose that is simple but sings. She uses tiny touches to make the book come to life. At the nursery, readers learn that inside “it smelled like raindrops.” At the hardware store, the little girl fills a bag with nails of each size and shape. Mattheson’s illustrations have an old-fashioned feel right at home with the subject. The round-faced characters are friendly and they are drawn with a folksy style. The bright colors make the book more modern than it could otherwise have been. A wonderful combination.
This quiet book is perfect for slow Saturday mornings when you aren’t rushing on your own errands. It is also a great way to spend bedtime reading, as you travel around the lush green pictures in an unhurried way. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.