Sunday, October 6, 2013

Alphabet Trucks

I am sure I've written before about Gloria and her love of cars and trucks.  She loves the movie Cars and the book I Stink!, and many, many other books about vehicles (like Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site).  On the day I opened a package from Charlesbridge and found the promised copy of Alphabet Trucks, Gloria quickly ripped it out of my hands.  We had stopped home briefly before swim lessons, and she took the book to the car with her and read it the whole way there.  Frances was the only one participating in swim lessons that session, and so Gloria spent the entire 45 minutes looking at Alphabet Trucks.  It had been sent to me for review, but I actually couldn't read it for a few days because Gloria wouldn't let me.  We are all big Samantha Vamos fans in our house, and this book was no exception.

  There are twenty-six different kinds of  trucks in this book.  Vamos has carefully constructed a rhyme for each type of truck.  It is tricky to come up with twenty-six different kinds of trucks, much less rhyming text that describes their function.  And Vamos packs a lot of information about each of the trucks into two short lines.  One of my favorite trucks is the zipper truck, which I didn't know existed before this book.  "Z is for zipper truck, lifting barrier walls."  But there is also "T is for tow truck, with a hook, chain and boom."  When I read that line, I realized I had never known what the boom was called.  I learned quite a lot about trucks through this book!

A pitfall of alphabet books is what I like to call the "infamous problem letters".  You know the ones - most often, they are the letters Q,U, V, and sometimes Z, depending on the book's subject.  We've all read alphabet books where the author dodges these letters (using the U as the second letter, or coming up with some way to use the Q without really tying it back to the concept) or their rhyme scheme falls apart around those letters because they are hard to incorporate.  Vamos stays strong through the Quint truck (a fire truck), a U-haul, Vacuum truck, and the Zipper truck I already shared.  There are plenty of trucks to go around!

Another pitfall I sometimes see in alphabet books is when the rhyme scheme becomes shaky - sometimes an author has a set rhyme scheme, and then has to contract words or use less familiar words just to fit the rhyme scheme.  This book scans well throughout.  To continue the smooth rhyme through 26 trucks is no easy feat!  I think of trucks as bumpy, choppy and a little teeth-chattering.  But Alphabet Trucks doesn't sound or feel like that at all.  It isn't forced, and is a great read-aloud.

The illustrations extend the text in a natural and clever way.  O'Rourke uses the letters of the alphabet in consistent ways throughout the book, which also helps reinforce the concept.  Each truck has the letter on its side, marked clearly and in capital letters only.  This choice helps extend the text.  If a young reader weren't sure what a quint truck was, they could match the capital Q at the beginning of the text to the capital Q on the truck.  This information, along with the  text's explanation that there are ladders, a hose, a tank and pump, helps the reader make the connection between the quint truck and the fire truck that is pictured.

There are so many cool trucks in this book, and the individual illustrations are one place where O'Rourke plays with letters again.  One of the trucks I like best is the ore truck.  Vamos writes "O is for ore truck, carrying tons in weight."  The ore truck is enormous, dwarfing the pickup truck next to it.  The tons of weight that Vamos cites are actually O's - big O's, little o's, in all sorts of fonts.  It adds a twist of whimsy to the illustrations once you start noticing all the ways O'Rourke has used the mentioned letter.  I am also fond of the tow truck, where t's make up the tow truck's chain.  It is a simple thing, but it adds so much to the illustration.

This book will be popular with many different audiences, but the truck-lovers in particular will pore over it repeatedly.  And the brief text means that parents will remember information about all the different kinds of trucks long after the book is finished.  Vamos is already at work on Alphabet Trains, and I can't wait to see it when it is published!  I know it is going to fill a need at our house, since I know even less about trains than trucks.  I hope Alphabet Trucks fills a need at your house too!

Alphabet Trucks.  Samantha Vamos; illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke.  Charlesbridge, 2013.

sent by the publisher for review

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