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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
Little Blue Truck
Little Blue Truck
by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Horn went "Beep!"
you ever heard.
Little Blue Truck
came down the road.
"Beep!" said Blue,
to a big green toad.
Toad said, "Croak!"
and winked an eye
when Little Blue Truck
went rolling by.
--Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry, p. 2-4.
Little Blue Truck is friendly, talking with all the animals he passes. But dump truck just honks at everyone to get out of his way as he rushes to get his "important" things done. When the dump truck gets stuck in the mud, nobody wanted to help him. The animals ignored him. The friendly little blue truck came along to try to help, but he got stuck, too. he called for help, and that's when all the animals came rushing to help push. They got both trucks out of the mud, and the dump truck became friendlier, realizing the value of having friends.
Schertle's (Very Hairy Bear; All You Need For a Beach) rhyming text has an easy, fluid feel with a catchy rhythm. The rhymes felt right to me, none of them sounding off. Schertle's story is warm, and the gentle message of friendliness and caring makes it a great model for children, especially boys. Young children will have fun with the sounds that the truck and the animals make as they interact with each other. There were two pages too many for me of the animals responding with their sounds to the blue truck, and nothing happening, but young children will probably enjoy those sounds. The message was a little blatant at the end, incorporated into dump truck's speech, but it works well enough.
Schertle makes good word choices to show character, such as "engine purred. friendliest sounds you ever heard," and the contrasting choice of trucks--"little blue truck" who is friendly, and the dump truck who initially is not. This is a sweet story with a good underlying message - that it's important to be kind to others if you want to experience kindness back.
The story will especially appeal to readers who like The Little Engine That Could, and who like cars and trucks. With the great rhythm and rhymes, it will make a good read-aloud.
McElmurry's (The Hound From the Pound; Mad About Plaid) gouache illustrations have an old-fashioned feel, with trucks styles from around the 40s, country landscapes, large open spaces. The animals, too, remind me of Duvoisin's Our Veronica Goes to Petunia's Farm(published in the 60s). The style of the trucks seems to fit giving them facial expressions, with head lights for eyes, and a grate for a nose.
Uncluttered skies give a sense of room and peacefulness (around little blue truck), while lack of sky with the dump truck helps make those illustrations feel crowded, and the truck bigger. McElmurry also has the dump truck take up a huge amount of space on the page, which helps to underscore the dump truck's loud and bullish personality. McElmurry picked up on and expanded the tone in Schertle's text. McElmurry's illustrations are gentle and fun.
-Added July 24, 2008
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