Readers’ Advisory: Non-Terrible Truck Books

I’ve been around the block when it comes to truck books. Here is my helpful parent guide to the least obnoxious truck books we’ve come across:

  • For simple, labelled catalogs of trucks, you can’t go wrong with Richard Scarry. Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go is a good starting place and our first copy was responsible for getting us to and from Acadia fuss-free when Pippin was about 18 months old.
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and, to a lesser extent, Katy and the Big SnowClassics.
  • Backhoe JoeA breakthrough for us; one of our first narrative truck books. What a relief!
  • Trashy Town and its companion Digabout the quietly sweet men who work dirty jobs.
  • Here Comes DarrellSo sweet, but with enough trucks to pass muster. The book centers around a year in the life of Darrell, an old New Englander who helps out his neighbors with plowing, hauling, and excavating, until the time comes he needs their help. (For my money, it’s a much better message than the more popular Little Blue Truck, where you must help others or you’re left stranded.)
  • Demolition and its companions: a good read-aloud for little kids. Lots of action!
  • Dinosaur Rescue combines vehicles AND reptiles for a preschool homerun. There are others in the series, but this is our favorite. (The rescue worker dinos sleep with blankies and loveys after their big adventure — so sweet!)
  • Machines Go to Work boasts the prettiest truck illustrations I’ve come across, that’s for sure.
  • Good Night, Good Night, Construction SiteThe best metered rhyme of all the many, many truck books we’ve read. Sweet and sleepy.

Note, these are not necessarily Pippin’s favorite truck books, but mine. (Sometimes, we agree to disagree.)

Dishonorable mentions: The Working Wheels series — actually, nearly anything from the junior nonfiction section of the library; I Stink which boasts illustrations of dirty diapers and dog poop; all things related to the Pixar Cars or Bob the Builder franchises…

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Mater’s Tall Tales

Some of my most-regretted purchases as a parent come from thrift shops.

At the time, it seems like such a small price to pay. $.50 for a toy or book and Pippin will give me leave to wander and browse, to find myself a pair of jeans, or score some pajamas for Eleanor’s second winter.

But then we end up with bizarre stuff, because inevitably he chooses the worst item on offer. We’ve lugged home decrepit fire trucks immediately (and eternally) relegated to the “repair shop” of Papa’s desk. It’s how we ended up buying back (!!!) a terrible Bob the Builder board book I’d donated to the family center tag sale. And fairly recently, we came home with our very own copy of Mater’s Tall Tales.

Pippin loves Tow Mater, and this book has become the bane of our existence. He wants it read to him day in and day out, and when we aren’t reading it to him, he’s “reading” it to his poor unsuspecting little sister. He’s memorized it to a hitherto unprecedented degree, and when a sweet guest tried to skim it in her reading, he firmly pointed out the passages she’d skipped.

At first it was kind of fun to channel my South Georgia college roommates and lay the accent on nice and thick, and to be fair, the book is gently funny for the first 37 readings. (It beats the hell out of that Bob the Builder book, anyway.) Eventually, my hatred of Mater began to fester.

All the while, though, these last few weeks, we’ve been making grownup plans for Pippin. We joined waitlists for a preschool and a homeschool co-op, and started him on swim lessons, which he bravely attends in order to earn a yogurt raisin reward afterwards.

And I realized I’ve been overlooking what a big deal Mater’s Tall Tales is in Pippin’s life: not just another truck book, the fruit of a lifelong obsession, but a step toward literacy. As he flips the pages himself, quoting the adored book verbatim, I find, for the moment, I can remain patient.

After all, ladies and gentlecars, soon he’ll be reading on his own, and maybe I’ll miss this endless stream of inane truck books.