For most adults, checking the mailbox daily is as banal and routine as flossing; My children, on the other hand, clamor daily to accompany me to the end of the driveway to reveal its mysterious contents. Imagine my children’s happiness when Candlewick Press kindly sent a bundle of books for us to review. I assembled my distinguished panel of judges (Joseph, age 3; Noah, age 1; Daddy, old enough), and we’ve spent the last week weaving these tales into our regular rotation. Here are our (not paid for) impressions.
Beep Beep and Choo Choo by author/illustrator Petr Horacek.
These books are simple, but hardly simplistic. Aimed at children 2-5, early readers enjoy fun words for sounds: “Chug”, “clack”, and “toot” go the train, “Vroom” and “whee”, go the car. Reminiscent of our favorite Eric Carle books, Horacek’s mixed-media illustrations and playful die-cuts make these colorful books re-readable. Of course, both my sons are enthralled with all things that go, but these stories are especially meaningful; Joseph carries around the Beep Beep book and wistfully contemplates the last two pages, featuring first a window behind which Grandma peaks out, and at last, arrival at Grandma’s house. (We miss you, Gramma!) And Noah, my potty-trainer who adores trains, cannot get enough of Choo Choo. He too finds magic on the final page, when the train pulls up to the beach (“hooray!”). We are fortunate enough to live only a few miles from a sunny California beach, alongside which a train faithfully captures my little beach boys’ attention every time it passes.
This beautifully illustrated book also features zany sounds made by a variety of construction machines. Following the crew as they build a new road, the text reads with poetic cadence. I like this one at bedtime, because I can read it much the way I do Goodnight Moon, as a spoken lullaby. Very handy for me, the final page has illustrations for numerous types of digging and building machines, so mommy can finally call a front-end loader a front-end loader, and an excavator and excavator. (I’m sorry to admit that I’ve called more than one type of machine a “bulldozer.”)
Keith and His Super Stunt Rally Racer; Bob and His No. 1 Van; Giorgio and His Star Crane Train; Clemence and His Noisy Little Fire Engine
Let me first say that if you have little ones who LOVE things that go crash! boom! bang! and those crashes result in everyone happily soaking wet or being tossed high into the air, they’ll adore this collection of Mini Bugs stories. These books are fast and vigorous story-telling; please be advised at bedtime! I can’t help but think that Ms. Spanyol writes like a “cool aunt” who brings her nieces and nephews the noisiest toys, the kind which eventually drive parents to the brink. The drawings resemble something she might have scribbled in her notebook, which I believe speak to children’s sensibilities. These are some silly, raucous books–beware!