The Obligatory Vehicle Book

I coined this term back when I was starting to plan my future-kid’s future-library, and figure its origin story will be a decent filler post so that I can stop feeling bad about how I haven’t had time to finish any of my almost-finished reviews or look at this blog for a month.  (Not that anyone’s reading yet, so I don’t have to feel very bad, but still.)

I wanted to get a jump on the library planning back before I knew whether the little bean was going to be a son or a daughter.  Before my book choices were influenced – consciously and subconsciously – by that knowledge. For instance, better go ahead and buy some of my favorite books with female protagonists before I knew whether the fetus had testes and might be in fear of girl cooties by the time he was old enough to read them; and also better buy some books about vehicles before I knew whether or not the fetus had ovaries. (It seems to be much cooler for girls to own/read books about boys than vice versa, so I wasn’t worried about that.)

Also, because at the time I was super-pissed about how some of my in-laws kept going on about the “natural” affinity that toddler boys have for trucks and tractors and stuff like that. Blah, blah, blah, Little Cousin’s sisters never cared about cars, but look at how he’s so fascinated by those wheels! Oh, haha, now he’s crashing his new truck into people’s legs! What a little man!

And I’m like, we just invented cars, so if that’s genetic, that happened really fast. And I refuse to believe that “liking transportation” is somehow tied to a Y chromosome. Or else we wouldn’t have horses in the “girly” category, now would we? Also, does nobody remember how a couple Christmases ago Little Cousin’s sisters were driving Matchbox cars everywhere, including on my head? And their parents kept anxiously reprimanding them for the cars-on-people’s-heads thing? I mean, OK, personal space is something we all have to learn about, but on the other hand I was like, “It’s fine, I’m playing too, I’m pretending to be a mountain”. I was not going, “It’s fine, I don’t mind if he randomly crashes his truck into my ankles, ow”, because I actually was not playing too. But in that case all the reprimanding was on me.

But noooooo!  We are a liberal family who does not subscribe to rigid gender norms! Nobody was preventing his sisters from playing with the Matchbox cars! So obviously if they are not interested in things-with-engines anymore, it’s their chromosomes, not their environment. *headdesk*


And then I thought, if I have a son someday and am raising him in a two-mom/zero-dad house, it might actually be good to also put some extra effort into offering him some stereotypically male-coded pursuits, too. In case his playground cred needs it or something.

So that was really two resolutions in favor of Books About Vehicles, regardless of what any ultrasounds might show.

Thing was, I didn’t really have any must-buy vehicle books in my head when I made either of these resolutions (except possibly Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, which I remember fondly from my childhood).  Because as noted above, vehicles are not really My Thing. Fortunately, there are lots of books for children about vehicles. The Obligatory Vehicle Book appears to be one of the big baby book genres. (Along with Animals/Farm, Baby Photos, Nursery Rhyme, Silly Poetry, and Numbers/Alphabet/Colors/Shapes.  I’m not counting the books targeted at an older crowd and reprinted as board books.) We’ve been able to check out lots of excellent vehicle books from the library, and have found a few to purchase besides, like Roadwork and Freight Train. Yay!

Anyway, that’s the long and ranty explanation of why I keep referring to Obligatory Vehicle Books.


Library Book Roundup: “Kipper’s Book of Opposites”, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, and “I Love You As Much”

Some of what we’ve been reading and re-reading the last couple of weeks.

Kipper’s Book of Opposites by Mick Inkpen, 1994. Red Wagon Books (Harcourt Brace & Company).

This book has one word per page, paired with an illustration of a cute brown-and-white puppy doing something related to that word. Some of the words are fun to read out loud. I always read the Slow/Fast pages as “SlooooooooooooooowFast!”, which usually gets a chuckle. Continue reading

Seasons collection by Ann Blades

The Seasons Collection by Ann Blades contains, as one might expect, four books with names like Summer and Winter. Orig. published 1989. Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books.

We checked out Winter from our local library because it seemed seasonally appropriate, and soon afterwards discovered that the Offspring was already aware of and interested in series. (As demonstrated by a great desire to read series books one after another, before moving on to the standalone titles.) So then we went back for more. Spring is either checked out or missing from the library’s collection, but I’ve seen the other three.

They’re wordless books. Bunch of images of two white kids in an idyllic, old-timey countryside. (Though fortunately not quite idyllic enough to make me wonder if the author had ever seen countryside.) Vaguely New Englandish.  Our kiddo is currently enjoys books with few words, because we have mad pageturning skillz to practice around here and those pesky words can really slow things down. So these books are hot stuff right now (along with a bunch of other low-to-no word books from the library). Continue reading

“My First Soccer Book”, by Sterling Children’s Books

My First Soccer Book, by Sterling Children’s Books, 2015.

No author listed, though the fine print on the back of this book says the design is by Phil Buchanan, whatever that might mean. Anyway, this is a collection of stock photos, mainly of kids playing soccer, each matched with a soccer-related word or phrase.  It’s a nice, sturdy board book.

It’s been an easy read-aloud, starting with boring pages like “Cleats”, working up to more dynamic stuff like “Referee” and various ways to kick the ball, and finally concluding with a triumphant “Goal!” So there’s a sort of natural arc of gradually increasing volume and enthusiasm, even for the sports-illiterate like me. (Whether it will pass muster with anyone who actually knows anything about soccer, I cannot tell you.) Continue reading

Library Book Roundup: “What Can You Do in the Rain?”, “Max and Ruby’s Snowy Day”, and “Mountain Babies”

Here are a few of the library books we’ve been reading this week.  Looks like at least some of them are out of print, but what the heck, I’ve already written my reviews.

What Can You Do in the Rain? by Anna Grossnickle Hines, pictures by Thea Kliros. 1999 Greenwillow Books (division of William Morrow)

Offspring picked this out, and I didn’t expect it to be topical because it’s definitely supposed to be snowing here. But it would appear that the Offspring can predict global climate change better than I can.

Pretty much what it says on the tin. It’s basically a series of answers to the question posed by the title.  The watercolors of chubby-cheeked children playing outside in the wet and mud are matched with descriptions like “Mix a mud pie” or “Taste a raindrop”.

Cover illustration shows a little girl of Asian descent with an umbrella. Will those who are trying to build a diverse library feel like that represents what’s inside? Continue reading

“Freight Train”, by Donald Crews

This review was originally written about a month ago. Since then, our copy of Freight Train has joined the reliable standbys. The Offspring also likes to “read” it alone in their carseat.

Wikipedia tells me that Crews’ father was, among other jobs, a railway man. Which (if true) may explain some of the deep knowledge and love that fills this apparently-simple book.

The short version of this review is: This book is awesome, I think everyone should buy it and shelve it next to The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It’s a good foundation for colors, train car names, and American poetry. Oh, and it presents the color black in a positive light, as the color of the steam engine. And is a classic by a Black author.

The long version is going to have a lot of personal tangents and basically boil down to the same thing, with added grumpiness about not knowing about it until recently even though it was published in 1979 and is now an indisputable classic.  (We have the 1996 Greenwillow edition.)  If you want a more on-topic review, there’s a good one over on the School Library Journal site:  (Oh, and for the record, to the question posed in Elizabeth Bird’s review, no.  This young parent did not assume the art was computer-generated and am completely unsurprised to hear it’s done with stencils.)
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“Trucks” by Byron Barton

My reviews are going to be out of chronological order for at least a bit, by the way.  Maybe indefinitely.  My tot got hold of my notebook a few weeks ago while I was doing business on the phone, and I made the executive decision that tearing out all the pages was a sufficiently not-life-endangering activity to let it slide until I wasn’t trying to hear a soft-spoken bureaucrat who had left me on hold long enough already.  So now I am typing stuff up as I find it.

I am oddly fond of this book’s illustrations. They are chunky and simplistic and not my usual thing at all, and somehow they trigger the “epicness of ancient Rome” switch in my brain. Not sure why – maybe the arches on the tunnels on the third spread? Maybe some deep-seated random belief that I am living in a world that may see the decline and fall of the Truck Era?

Continue reading