Fueling imagination

These recent picture books for preschool- and primary-age children celebrate "things that go" as a vehicle (heh) for daydreaming and imaginative play.

It's "a fine evening for a drive," and Annie, protagonist of Vroom! by Barbara McClintock, has a plan — and a big imagination. In her sleek racing car, Annie zooms right out of her second-floor bedroom window; then, gleefully bypassing all geographical logic, drives over flat terrain; up a snowy mountain; through a desert, a forest, and a big city; and across a finish line (first, of course!). Dynamic illustrations cement Annie's love for racecars with details in her racecar-themed bedroom, where the daredevil young driver ends her epic journey, snug in bed reading a book with her family. (Farrar, 2–5 years)     

A companion to Trucks Roll!, Planes Fly!, and Boats Float!, George Ella Lyon and Benn Lyon's Trains Run! introduces trains' characteristics and typical journeys. Rhythmic, rhyming text smoothly incorporates terminology and technical details, while an energetic refrain — "Steam engine, / gas engine, / electric engine too. / Chooka-chooka! Vroom zoom! / Hssss! Whoo-oo-whoo!" — provides kid-pleasing opportunities for participation. Mick Wiggins's posterlike digital illustrations of city scenes, dramatic natural landscapes, and in-station vignettes reward close observation with a few fantastical surprises. (Atheneum/Jackson, 2–5 years)   

What's a kid to do when he wants a puppy but receives a toy truck instead? In Puppy Truck by Brian Pinkney, Carter cheerfully makes the best of it by pretending that the truck is a puppy. Vibrant, saturated tones and swirling shapes, only semi-contained by thick black outlines, reflect the protagonist in motion and highlight the warmth and comfort of his (grownup-free) imaginary play. Sound effects interspersed throughout the straightforward main text provide lots of opportunities to make animal sounds and truck noises. (Atheneum, 2–5 years)   

In What Kind of Car Does a T. Rex Drive? Uncle Otto, a used-car salesman desperate for a sale, vows to "sell a car to anyone — or anything — that shows up." When dinosaurs lumber onto the lot looking for deals, Uncle Otto is flummoxed. Luckily, niece Ava and nephew Mickey know a few things about dinos — and sales. Mark Lee's straight-faced text calmly relates the story, while Brian Biggs's comical cartoon illustrations — with massive dinosaurs jammed into people-size vehicles — bring the kooky premise to life. (Putnam, 4–7 years)

From the August 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a freelance children’s and YA editor. She's also a former bookseller who holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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