Tuesday, March 04, 2008


TRUCK STUCK by Sallie Wolf, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies (Charlesbridge)
Somewhere along your travels you may have seen a truck with a driver that has not properly estimated the height of a viaduct. I know that my first, sad thought whenever I see this situation is, "oh, dear, somebody is losing his job today." The author looked at this same situation, and saw inspiration. Not just another "truck book," this story manages to have true drama and excitement conveyed through pert and perfect rhymes ('Traffic cops./Whistles blow./Try to tow./No go."), offering some solid sight-word vocabulary for emergent readers. Clearly drawn, cartoonish artwork has lots of color, comedy and dramatic swirling smoke to add to the fray, plus the car line-ups depicted are charmingly akin to the "parades" I've seen little boys create across kitchen floors. With plenty to point at and laught at, this book is going to be an action-packed favorite that, like Richard Scarry's CARS AND TRUCKS AND THINGS THAT GO, bears repeated reading. Best of all, we find out how such trucks really do get unstuck. I've always wondered! (4 and up)

Also of interest:
One good laugh deserves another, n'est-ce pas?
SQUIRREL'S WORLD by Lisa Moser, illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev (Candlewick)
As Shel Silverstein noted in his poem "Helping," "...some kind of help is the kind of help/That helping's all about,/And some kind of help is the kind of help/We all can do without." Apparently, Squirrel never read Shel Silverstein.
Squirrel was busy, busy, busy.
He had to help his tree. "Grow, grow, grow!" cheered Squirrel.
He had to help the river. "Flow, flow, flow!"
He had to help his friends. "Got to go. Got to go. Got to go, go, go!"
Whether nearly battering a mouse in a rain of apples, wearing out a weary turle with fun and games, or dousing an aquaphobic rabbit, the path to hell is always paved with squirrel's furry little good intentions, but luckily, by the fourth vignette, all's well in the end. Squirrel's pitch-perfect hyperactivity is a hysterically funny tribute to the tweaked, the kind of boundless, cheerful energy that exhausts everyone around (you know the type, I know you do), with engaging storylines and expressive, side-splitting illustrations that match the strong characterization throughout. Look at that squirrel shaking the branch so hard, his entire body is splayed in the air! Look at the excrutiation of turtle, tucked in his shell to avoid the bouncing mammal! Look at that squirrel's panic, in realizing he forgot to say good-night! Heaven's to Betsy, though Squirrel may have worn out his friends, he has hardly worn out his welcome, and I hope there are more, more, more adventures to come from the world that is the most wonderful since the one inhabited in Arnold Lobel's FROG AND TOAD. A great pick for read-aloud, or for very new chapter book readers. (5 and up)

IVAN THE TERRIER by Peter Catalanotto (Atheneum) "Once upon a time, deep in the forest, there lived three bears. Oh no! Sit! Ivan! Sit! This story is not about you! Bad dog!" Let's try again, shall we? "Once upon a time there were three little pigs...Not again! Ivan! Stay! Somebody grab him!" Screamingly funny slaptick marks the fairy-tale escapes of a poorly trained puppy who can't help but continually interrupt the tellings. After all, why shouldn't every story be about him? Children will enjoy recognizing their favorite folktales and seeing them ruthlessly deconstructed by the barking beast; the scene in which the Gingerbread Man is in the doggy's muzzle while Ivan wears a "who me?" expression is priceless. Well-timed page turning will have kids shouting out a la Mo Willems' DON'T LET A PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS. With his realistic, painterly style, Peter Catalanotto has achieved an amazingly accomplished body of work in his lifetime (EMILY'S ART and George Ella Lyon's MOTHER TO TIGERS among my favorites, and MATTHEW A.B.C. a popular classroom pick), and in this latest, he has really showcased his talent for humor, and an insight into what appeals and speaks to children. Good doggy! (5 and up)

On a personal note:
Oh, talented picture book authors and illustrators make it all look so easy, don't they! It is really a craft, which, if you live in the Chicago/Evanston area, you can hone by taking classes with author/illustrator Laura Montenegro. Her "Intuitive Suitcase" classes start Tuesday evenings from 7-9 p.m. or Wednesday evenings, 7-9 p.m. starting next week. In it, "you will develop a picture book dummy using your own blend of story creation, illustration, and book design. The dummy is your 'plan" and every publisher likes to see one when you submit your book....Far surpassing the singular arts necessary in the makin of picture books: illustration, story writing and book design, the book dummy invites the artist to combine all three." True dat, Laura! The author of several beautiful books herself, she has a lot of insight into both the artistic process as well as the business protocol. I have not taken the class myself, but sent friends and heard rave reviews ("I thought I would be self-conscious, but she made me brave about trying my art," "it was nice to leave with something I could really use") and, really, who couldn't use an intuitive suitcase? E-mail her at lauramontenegro(at)sbcglobal(dot) net (pardon the cryptic addy, trying to save her some spam) for a PDF of her pretty flyer with full details. And if you are an author/illustrator novice, make sure you check out membership in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), a private organization that offers premier opportunities for professional growth and community around the country. I am not a "joiner," but writing coach, author and regional advisor Esther Hershenhorn was very persuasive, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made; the Illinois chapter is off the hook when it comes to on-line encouragement, special events and general celebration. Hope these links are helpful in creating the next chapter of your picture-book perfect writing life!

New feature: Shop with Esmé!

My guilty pleasure is on-line perusal, and I keep coming across such clever things, I thought I had better start sharing them. My latest consumer indulgence was a "Three Way Pad" from RoomServiceHome, I got the one divided into "tasks, errands, contact," but they also have "short term, medium term, long term" and "home, work, play." If only I was as good as doing what's on the lists as I am at making the lists! To-do! Ta-daaa! Ta-ta...

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.


Jim Danielson said...

TRUCK STUCK sounds wonderful!!!

Jim D

Anonymous said...

Interesting book....

Mary Lee said...

I'm all about new list-making technology!

Anonymous said...

Wow!It's very interesting book....!

Andy Robert Davies said...

Hey there everybody!

I'm Glad you like Truck Stuck - it was great fun drawing it. You can check out more of my work at:



Andy Robert Davies


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