Review of Big Truck Little Island

Big Truck Little Island Big Truck Little Island
by Chris Van Dusen; illus. by the author
Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.    g
5/22    978-1-5362-0393-6    $17.99

This story of cooperative problem-solving begins on a crystal-clear summer day as a massive tractor trailer is delivered via barge and tugboat to a small coastal island. Van Dusen’s dynamic color-saturated gouache illustrations capture the excitement of the out-of-the-ordinary event, with varying gull’s-eye and on-the-ground views. The real drama, however, happens soon after the truck takes to the island’s main road: at one particularly tight curve, it jack-knifes, completely blocking the road. (Readers witness the accident, first from inside the cab along with the cartoonily shocked driver, and then harrowingly from the side of the road within inches of the gigantic wheels.) The blocked road is a problem for the four cars in a hurry (two headed north, two south) that can’t move around the truck. Van Dusen is in full command of his rhyming text, using rhythm and sound to set the pace and convey mood. His expressive characters add humor to the situation. While the grownups in the cars “stew and steam,” the four kid passengers come up with a genius ­solution—temporarily trading cars—that’s a testament to island ingenuity and neighborliness. Everyone gets where they need to be—including the truck with its mysterious load, which is later revealed on a festive nighttime double-page spread. In his author’s note, Van Dusen tells the real story about a truck accident on a Maine island: “I changed a few of the details and added some new fictional characters, [but] this is overall a true story.” And it’s one that is given life by a skillful storyteller.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kitty Flynn
Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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