Book: Backhoe Joe
Author: Lori Alexander
Illustrator: Craig Cameron
Age Range: 3-6
Backhoe Joe, written by Lori Alexander and illustrated by Craig Cameron, is about a boy named Nolan who finds a stray backhoe (whom he names Joe). The backhoe isn't quite house-trained, and has a lot of energy, so he proves to be a bit of a handful for Nolan. But when Nolan finds an idle construction site, and is able to set Joe to work, the situation improves. Right up until Joe's real owner turns up, anyway.
The premise of Backhoe Joe is pretty ridiculous, of course. But it's a fun riff on the fairly classic situation of finding and attempting to train a lost dog, set against the also classic theme of books about construction equipment. I can definitely imagine three and four year old boys asking for "that book about the pet backhoe" again.
Alexander's text is straightforward, without a lot of complex words to puzzle the preschool audience. Like this:
""Look what followed me home," Nolan said. "I'm going to keep him. He won't be a bother."
Joe buried his cone in the flower bed. Then he leaked all over the driveway."
"See?" Nolan said. "He likes it here." Mom and Dad weren't so sure.
"This backhoe isn't trained," Mom said.
"I'm on it," Nolan replied.
There's no rhyme or other wordplay to entice parents to want to re-read Backhoe Joe. However, Cameron's pencil, watercolor, and Photoshop illustrations make the wide-eyed, smiling Joe quite appealing. Nolan's dejection when he finds a flyer showing the lost backhoe, and Joe's distress, are universal.
See also the latest in James Horvath's series about construction worker dogs: Work, Dogs, Work!: A Highway Tail. In this installment, our hard-working (and sometimes silly) crew of canine construction workers is tasked with building a road. They also manage to create a bridge that bears a strong resemblance e to the Golden Gate Bridge, all in a single day. Pretty impressive, if you're into that sort of thing. See my review of the previous book in this series: Build, Dogs, Build!
I'll be trying both of these construction-themed books on my four-year-old daughter. But I suspect that they'll be a better fit for kids who would otherwise be found digging around in the dirt with toy backhoes and other trucks. Personally, I find the rhyming text in Work, Dogs, Work more appealing for reading aloud, though I do like Backhoe Joe's illustrations and original premise.
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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