Vehicles are a huge topic for many small kids, especially 3-year-old boys who are not quite old enough for superheroes. This fascination can be a brief fad for some and a lifetime passion for others. Either way, you will probably be spending a lot of time reading about subjects such as construction and firefighting. What is the difference between a front loader and a backhoe? If you don’t know, it’s time to find out. Here are reviews of ten children’s books about cars and trucks, as well as more recommendations.
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sheeri Duskey Rinker is one book you probably won’t mind reading a hundred times. The construction vehicles have worked hard all day long and now it is time for them to sleep. As the sun descends in the sky, the pages are imbued with a purple-red color, which gives the scene a certain beauty. One by one the vehicles are named and put to bed. Construction sites are often seen as enemies of rest and relaxation, but this one will have your little one down in no time. Ages 2+
The next morning you can wake up to I Stink!, a hilarious book by Kate & Jim McMullan. This story celebrates everything that is foul and disgusting about your neighborhood garbage truck. Children love it, especially the recipe for Alphabet Soup: apple cores, banana peels, candy wrappers, dirty diapers… Truck lovers will enjoy the scene that shows an X-ray view of the trash being compacted. Ultimately, it pays respect to the sanitation department, pointing out that without them, “you’re on Mount Trash-o-rama.” Ages 3+
Building With Dad by Carol Nevius is an inventive twist on the construction theme. Like Tops & Bottoms in the Rabbit section, it opens vertically, instead of sideways. The highly realistic illustrations play with perspective. My daughter noticed examples of foreshortening and bird’s-eye view – two concepts that she has been learning about at art class. This book takes something you see every day, such as a dump truck dumping gravel and makes it interesting by showing what it would look like from the gravel’s viewpoint. My husband, who likes to walk around the library collecting Dad books, remembered this book and recommended it for inclusion in this list. Ages 3+
Modern children have never heard of, let alone seen, a steam powered digger, but that won’t stop them from loving Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne, his steam shovel. Before the late nineteenth century, digging a giant hole would have required scores of manual laborers. Steam shovels changed that, but then they were replaced by more efficient (and less polluting) trucks, which used diesel fuel. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton chronicles the rise and fall of the new technology in a deeply personal way. Desperate for work and appreciation, Mike and Mary Anne travel from the city to the countryside with a mission to dig a foundation for a town hall. They promise to do it in one day and do, except for one miscalculation – they forget to provide Mary Ann an exit. My son was moved by Mary Anne’s plight. “Is she really alive?” he asked. I told him she is real if she is real to him. “OK,” he said, “Then she likes to eat dirt.” Ages 4+
Both my kids laughed hysterically at this next one. Where’s My TRUCK? by Karen Beaumont is a whimsical portrayal of a boy (the littlest one in the family) who has lost his toy truck and tears the house apart in order to find it. As with all excellent picture books, the pictures tell you more than the words. I would recommend this story for families whose lives are regularly turned upside down by the antics of kids and pets. Ages 3+
In The Trucker by Barbara Samuels, Leo is obsessed with trucks. His mother is bored silly of them. They never seem to have the same interests, until a cat named Lola comes into their lives. At first Sam is disappointed that Lola is not a fire truck, but eventually he recognizes that she too is a trucker. Both of my children loved Lola. I liked all of the innovative ways Leo uses his trucks to help him in his daily life. Ages 3+
Off Go Their Engines, Off Go Their Lights is similar to Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, but it features more urban vehicles, such as taxis, fire trucks and package delivery trucks. This book is a great addition to any truck lovers collection. Ages 2+
There was a period where I read the story of Big Frank’s Fire Truck by Leslie McGuire to my son every day. The book chronicles a day in the life of Firefighter Frank and includes some dramatic moments as well as basic fire safety information. I lent this book out to couple of other firefighter-loving kids and they also seemed to relate to Frank. My kids especially enjoyed seeing his young children at the end of book. Ages 3+
My Car by Byron Barton uses bright illustrations and simple words to teach young children about cars and the rules of the road. My kids are now a bit old for this title, but both enjoyed reading it as toddlers. Ages 2-4
The Wheels on the Bus is a favorite childhood song and this version by Maryann Kovalski does it justice. A grandmother and her two granddaughters entertain themselves during the long wait for the bus by singing “The Wheels on the Bus.” I liked how the book includes musical notation near the beginning for readers that might be unfamiliar with the tune. My daughter was amused by the end, when their singing causes them to miss the bus and they have to take a taxi home. Ages 3+
Additional Recommended Picture Books about Cars and Trucks
Easy Readers about Trucks
Songs about Cars and Trucks
Riding in My Car (Car Song) – Woody Guthri
On The Road Again – Willie Nelson
Big Ol’ Truck – Karen K and the Jitterbugs
Wheels on the Bus – Free Sampler
I was never a car person and construction vehicles were not at all interesting either , until I became a mom. My son's first word after Mama was Bama which we soon discovered meant garbage truck, after that Didder which was digger and so on and so on.
What is the difference between a front loader and a backhoe? Here are reviews of 10 children's books about cars and trucks, as well as more recommendations.
Children's picture books about cars, trucks, fire engines, ditch diggers, steam shovels and other equipment seem to particularly appeal to young children. Some of the children's picture books below are classics, while some of the other recommended books are more recent.
As the wildly successful "Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site" has shown, stories about trucks need not be tough. There can be warm, fuzzy elements amid the concrete and scrap metal. Even a teddy bear can find its way in. Perhaps there's just something appealing about the juxtaposition of soft, fluffy animals and heavy-metal loaders, which feature in two new picture books this season.
ALONG A LONG ROAD Written and illustrated by Frank Viva. 40 pp. Little, Brown. $16.99. (Picture book; ages 3 to 6) A terrific debut from Viva, an award-winning illustrator and frequent cover artist for The New Yorker, this sleek and stylish travelogue follows a lone cyclist on a continuous path that runs from first page to last.