Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, January 31, 2014

Wacky Vehicles

When my younger sister and I began driving, my parents bought us a "safe" but really old car.  It had seen one too many Michigan winters; the salt on the roads having had its way on the wagon's body.  It was a tad bit disconcerting to be able to see the roadway passing beneath your feet from a hole in the floor.

Nowadays my vehicle of choice, less than a year old, is more computer than anything else, having an owner's manual as thick as a phone book.  Although it's by far the best car I have ever purchased (since my chances of owning the Batmobile are slim to none), I can't help but wonder about the modes of transportation featured in this new book, Poem-Mobiles:  Crazy Car Poems (Schwartz & Wade Books) written by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian with illustrations by Jeremy Holmes.  There is no doubt in my mind taking one of these models for a spin will garner a bunch of gawkers in short order.

Train means train, bus means bus,
Truck means truck to most of us.

So auto ought to mean, you see,
Auto automatically. ...

Children flock to the enormous bookmobile running on imagination power driven by a book character as a car so tiny the driver is stuck inside follows behind.  It looks happier when under the sea but its two tails, seats with scales, fins and gills give the driver plenty of thrills on land.  If you thought dinosaurs are extinct, look again...behind your school to see a rip-roaring ride that might collide with The Dragonwagon. Yikes!

If you are tired of recycling all your paper, make a car that can easily be disposed of when it starts to go when it should stop.  If you continually miss the sights along the road, never fear.  The Backwards Car is your perfect set of wheels.  If your closet shelves and floors are lined with rows of shoes in every shade and shape, why not hitch a ride on the ultimate footwear form, The High-Heel Car?

Pulled by a cow, slightly lifted by balloons, or flown to the moon by sprouted wings, these marvelous machines move.  Take a bath in bubbles as you travel?  No thanks, I think I'll pass.  When hunger strikes and your destination is reached, don't worry because your car is the perfect feast.

Pink bubble gum, over-grown grass and eggs create parts and pieces of motorists' astonishing automobiles.  For love, for dessert, for speed and for bounce, they will never fail to please.  As a passenger, a driver behind the wheel or a reader needing light and laughter, these twenty-one poetic improbabilities are a transportation treat.

Both J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian, outstanding poets, have creatively collaborated to make the stuff of dreams a possibility on these pages.  They rhyme.  They have rhythm.  They cavort, careen, crack, swerve and slide down highways, alleys and streets.  The cadence generated by wordplay combined by the power of one's imagination will have readers wanting at least one of these vehicles waiting in their garage.  You can hear the laughter of the children riding the Giant Bookmobile of Tomorrow, feel the swish of water passing by the Eel-ectric Car, taste the condiments on the Hot Dog Car, smell the fudge and whipped cream on The Banana Split Car and see the wonder of one hundred balloons holding up the Balloon Car.  Here's a single sample from one of the poems.

There was an old woman
Who lived in high heels.
She loved one so much
That she gave it three wheels. ...

Several of the automobiles featured inside the title create the two page image on the matching jacket and cover.  Every element of this illustration, the title banner, the authors and illustrator names on signs, the ISBN attached to the car carrier truck on the back, the portion of the Dragonwagon poem on a cloud, is excellently designed.  Darkened opening and closing endpapers show tire tracks.  On the title page, the letters hang from strings coming from beneath the clouds as a signal light glows green.

Spreading across two pages the Contents depicts outlines of each car with the title and page number.  To the right an introductory poem sets things in motion.  A palette of pastels, bright and bold, creates luminous whimsy in all the pictures.  These automotive portrayals invented using pencil, watercolor and digital coloring by Jeremy Holmes would be the envy of any engineer.  With the exception of four pages all of the illustrations extend, edge to edge, over two pages.  One picture is even shown vertically.

Intricate details, the spines on the bookmobile books, the speech bubble declaring Recess has been canceled, the elderly woman sitting with her three cats on the roof of a building, the labels of insect stages, the Royal Throne and the facial features on the humans and creatures, all contribute to the wonder, the amazement, one feels when looking at all these pictures.  Each one is an invitation to pause, not only to read the poem but to look for the potential these words might generate.  I have more than one favorite illustration but two which I like in particular are the schoolyard scene with the dinosaur and dragon (Jurassic Park(ing) and The Dragonwagon) and the two pages, day and night, for The Love Car.

Don't wait for April, National Poetry Month, or even a special day of the week, to explore the fantastical fun in Poem-Mobiles:  Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian with pictures by Jeremy Holmes.  You, your children or your students will be ready to make your own nutty machines ready to ride or drive anyplace you can imagine.  Please visit the authors' and illustrator's websites via the links embedded in their names above.  Jeremy Holmes has several pages displayed for your enjoyment.  Follow this link to the publisher's website to get a glimpse inside at the first few pages.

UPDATE:  Please visit Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast hosted by Julie Danielson where she interviews Jeremy Holmes.  The amount of artwork is amazing.


  1. It totally is Elizabeth! I think Henny would like The Grass Taxi.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I love J.Patrick Lewis and I had not seen this book! The perfect read aloud for STEAM driven topics!

    1. You are welcome! If you like J. Patrick Lewis you are going to love this book!