20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street is a counting book aimed squarely at young truck fans. When an ice cream truck breaks down in the middle of his street, a young boy on a bike counts all of the trucks that stack up. Eventually, he is able to suggest a clever solution, one that makes use of one of the other trucks. After a bit of effort to get the adults to pay attention to his plan, the boy eventually triumphs. Naturally, there's ice cream to be had at the end.
Mark Lee's rhythmic text is clearly meant to be read aloud. Like this:
"A mail truck stops, so now there are two.
Their drivers don't know what to do.
Watch out! Two trucks are in the way.
They stop a third truck carrying hay."
I must admit that the text didn't always scan quite right for me, though. Like this:
"I start to count each truck I see.
First 1, then 2, and now there are 3."
In my opinion, the "and" shouldn't be there. I suppose the idea is to keep the text from being sing-songy. But for me, when you have two rhyming lines close in length, it makes sense to have the same number of syllables. Perhaps this is nit-picking...
I do like the fact that the boy counts to 20 (most picture books only make it up to 10), and the fact that many different kinds of trucks are introduced. Kids who can't get enough information about trucks will be happy reading this book, and will learn their numbers above 10, too.
Kurt Cyrus's illustrations use a muted, bedtime-friendly palette. The trucks are shown via a variety of perspectives, with the yellow-helmeted boy a constant presence through the pages. Cyrus's people are secondary to the trucks, sometimes shown without details filled in. But I like that he includes a range of ethnicities and body shapes. One of the police officers who helps with the traffic jam is a woman, which I thought was a nice, subtle confounding of expectations. I also like the fact that the boy is apparently on his own, on his bike (with helmet), out in the neighborhood. Free range.
The storyline in 20 Big Trucks reminds me a bit of Truck Stuck, a 2008 picture book by Sallie Wolf and Andy Robert Davies. That one is a story-based picture book, though, while this one is more of a rhythmic counting book for younger kids. For a counting book aimed at the truck-fan audience, 20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street also offers a bit of a story, and a fun glimpse of a city neighborhood in chaos. I think it would make a nice classroom or library read-aloud, and I will use it at home to help my daughter learn her numbers.
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