Vroom!

Cover of Vroom!Barbara McClintock's Vroom! is one of my favorite picture books of 2019 for very young children — and I'm a perennial cheerleader for great books for the youngest, though they rarely if ever garner Caldecott recognition. Still! They are worth speaking up for. 

In recognition of its audience, Vroom! wastes no time getting to the good part. After just three pages of setup, focusing on Annie and her racecar against white space with no background detail, We. Are. Off. (This is not to say that the intro pages dawdle. Nope. There's the immediate engagement of protagonist Annie with the viewer, through direct eye contact. There's the immediate recognition of Annie as a total daredevil adventurer with her bold gaze, confident grin, and casual hop into her racecar.) 

After those three white-background pages, McClintock switches to full-color, full-bleed double-page spreads, as Annie literally takes off on her adventure. Note the sheer force and velocity of her exit from her upstairs bedroom window — curtains blown straight out; completely level trajectory (no wimpy gradual arc down to the ground); curly red hair and plumes of exhaust streaming behind her.

From here on, all the action takes place on double-page spreads full of color and detail, as Annie vrooms through farmland, over mountains, through deserts and forests and cities — ending up in the oval of a speedway, where she OF COURSE wins the race. All the page-turns here are clever, with almost always a clue or hint as to what the next spread will bring (a glimpse of mountains in the distance on the flat farmland spread; a glimpse of a bridge into the city on the forest spread). But the racetrack spread is the cleverest of all, as McClintock simply shows a road leading out of the speedway directly into Annie's own, familiar neighborhood. Trailed as ever by the puffy exhaust plumes, she drives up to her house, blows through the living room (her parent and baby sib get quite the surprise), and arrives, yawning, in her bedroom. She's back from her adventure, so once again McClintock employs white space, removing detail from the last spread, as one's eye moves from left to right: the right side of the spread contains only Annie, her now-muddy racecar, and her bed. The final illustration, a single page set against white space, no backgroun detail, shows all three famiy members cuddled in Annie's bed as her parent reads her and the baby a book — titled Cars. A lovely final touch, as is the closing implication, as Jules noted in her Horn Book review, that there's always tomorrow — "another fine day for a drive." 

The construction and design of this book, with its classic home-away-home adventure structure, has been so carefully considered and so exquisitely calibrated for the audience. Individual illustrations have been, too. Note how you can always easily locate Annie in every spread, by either her shock of red hair or the long puffy line of exhaust. Note the omnipresence of kid-appealing, curious creatures — whether animal or human (and in the city scenes, sometimes both). Note the  color palette — always rich, but varied according to the particular landscape Annie is speeding through.   

For those who find clever endpapers a must, one might have expected maybe black-and-white checks echoing a checkered racing flag, or perhaps a road map. But I really like that the endpapers are, simply, bright green — green for green light, no stopping, no slowing down. Go, Annie! You're a proven winner. Perhaps you can win in the Caldecott room as well.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.
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Allison Khoury

My Kinder students LOVED this book and so did first grade. They loved the rear view mirror images of the desert and the reflection of her face. They loved her taking off out the window. They loved the living room scene at the end as she races through and the big yawn in the bedroom with her dirty car right there by the bed. And so much more Great review!!!!

Posted : Nov 24, 2019 04:18


jules Danielson

I mean. I looove this book and hadn't even made the connection with the go-go-go green endpapers. Brilliant.

Posted : Nov 15, 2019 04:19


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