Quote of the Month

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

Build-It Buddies

Given the popularity of empty boxes in all shapes and sizes, small wooden blocks, and LEGO bricks with children, creativity and the urge to build are evident at all ages.  If scrap lumber, large scavenged sticks and stones are available, forts and tree houses will be assembled.  It's not just that they like to create and build, but the sense of satisfaction at completing the work is immeasurable.  Even as adults the inventive spirit will remain strong if nurtured.

Not only do these resourceful souls like to fashion new items but they enjoy watching others do the same thing.  There is a certain fascination in observing a dollhouse, home, skyscraper, boat, or model airplane take shape.  For this reason in May of 2011 Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site acquainting us with movers and shapers, Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer and Excavator, found a place in readers' hearts.  A companion title, Mighty, Mighty Construction Site (Chronicle Books, February 14, 2017) written by Sherri Duskey Rinker with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld reunites readers with these fond friends.

Down in the big construction site,
five trucks wake to morning light.
It's time to S-T-R-E-T-C-H, roll out of bed,
and gear up for the day ahead!

These pals don't waste a single second, shaking off their slumber and getting ready to go.  A new enormous job is on their agenda.  They've never worked on a task this large.  Cement Mixer hollers with his horn for reinforcements.  It echoes from the city to the country.

Trucks start to roar down the road; friends in need, friends indeed.  Now the group numbers ten.  It's time to get busy; two by two that's what they do.

This work is tough but little Skid Steer shows her stuff, shattering stones for her best buddy, Bulldozer.  Nearby another twosome does a dig and drop dance laying pipe.  Crane Truck lifts and lifts and then astonished learns, everything required is gone.  In the nick of time rumbling into the site Mighty Flatbed carries more.

Great piles of dirt are scooped and carried by friendly companions.  The guy who called the extra crew needs help at new heights.  Concrete is lifted up, up, and up some more.  Pumper's boom pours and pours.   What was large was made small by all ten trucks giving it their all.  As the sun sets five head down the highway home.  Five trucks, five friends, under a crescent moon, stay and soon...sleep.

As soothing as a lullaby but as lively as a brisk breeze Sherri Duskey Rinker wraps her rhythmic words around readers.  We gladly rise and shine with these trucks and the others who heed the call.  Every two lines, like the partners who tackle this task, two words rhyme; never missing a beat.  Alliteration is used with skill, word choices consistent with the setting and story.  Here are some more sample sentences.

Rolling, rumbling, revving hard,
ten big trucks meet in the yard.
A mighty, massive SUPERCREW---
there is nothing they can't do!

The happiness on the "faces" of all ten trucks waiting on the multi-levels of dirt around Excavator as he cradles the new-day sun on the opened and matching dust jacket and book case is sure to spread to readers of all ages.  To the left, on the back, Crane Truck is lifting the block holding the ISBN.  On the two-tone rustic, golden orange opening and closing endpapers truck tire tracks of various designs zig-zag across the pages.

Warm shades of red spread a glow across the two-page image for the title page as the sun rises.  The man in the building near the construction site who yelled about the noise of Dump Truck's snores in the first book, shouts out a

Hey! Wake Up!

to the dozing trucks.  Rendered in Neocolor wax oil pastels on Mi-Teintes paper with digital fine-tuning by Kristen Cella the texture of the illustrations on the matte-finished paper invites you to touch the pages.

Every page turn usually reveals a double-page picture, page edge to page edge.  On many of these Tom Lichtenheld will place another framed smaller visual, sometimes two or even four.  His color palette is in keeping with the setting but his light and shading bring a cheerful luminescence to all the illustrations.  No one makes trucks as lovable as he does with their facial expressions and added details like Crane Truck and his teddy bear.  Careful readers will also notice the return of the little red bird, the blanket on top of Cement Mixer and the "pillow" upon which Bulldozer rests.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the five trucks are lined up and moving along to the construction site in the early morning light.  Crane Truck is carrying the rolled up plan on the far left.  In front of him, left to right, are Cement Mixer, Bulldozer, Excavator and Dump Truck.  Behind them is a faint outline of the cityscape in purple backed by golden puffs of clouds on the palest blue sky.  The only thing missing is the soft sound of engines running.  If you listen closely, you might hear them.

Readers are going walk around hugging this latest title, Mighty, Mighty Construction Site, written by Sherri Duskey Rinker with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld.  The images elevate the marvelous narrative in a spirit of affectionate cooperation.  Readers will be cheering for their favorite five and their new teammates.  You're going to want to have multiple copies available.

To discover more about Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher hosted the book trailer premiere on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Sherri and Tom chat about their work on all their books in this article at Publishers Weekly.  At the publisher's websites for this title there is an activity kit and an activity guide for teachers.  Sherri and Tom visit All The Wonders, Episode 327 to chat with teacher librarian Matthew C. Winner about this new title.

UPDATE:  Tom Lichtenheld talks about his process with author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. April 18, 2017

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