Demolition, written by Sally Sutton and illustrated by Brian Lovelock

I had something pointed out to me by a customer the other day, something that I think I have vaguely noticed but never given much thought to - the lack of good picture books aimed squarely at boys. The scales are tipped in favor of boys when it comes to middle-grade readers, be they fantasy or reality based. These books are dominated by main characters who are boys, usually with sisters or girl sidekicks. Girls don't mind reading a book with a boy main character, but boys will only read books with girls as a main character under duress (or assignment.)  However, when we drop down in reading level to chapter books and picture books, girls seem to rule the shelves. Why is this? I have a few ideas, most of which center around the generalized assumption that girls are able to and interested in settling down and reading a book at a much younger age than most boys. Because of this, maybe parents just aren't willing to invest in a book, a picture book especially, if they don't think their son will listen to it being read over and over or read it himself. This is just a guess. But I bet if you take a look at your picture book collection (if you have both boys and girls) you might find very few books written specifically for boys. Where is the boy version of Fancy Nancy or Pinkalicious? Happily, the coincidence of the publication of Demolition and my customer question that got me thinking have led to a book review that includes a list of all the boy-centric picture books I could think of.

Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock, the New Zealand team who brought us Roadwork (scroll down for images) are back with Demolition! Sutton's writing is poetic, lyrical and onomatopoeic. Words are repeated and rhymed loosely, each page ending with constriction sounds like "Whirr! Churr! Crunch" and "Screech! Scrunch! Rip!" The story of tearing down of an old building and making something new in its place is told in chunks or words and sounds that narrate the actions of the construction crew and their machines. Lovelock's illustrations are colorful and painterly while at the same time being succinct and detailed in the representation of the constriction vehicles, which boys will love. The mobile crusher happens to be my favorite thing in the book. In place of the derelict building, a playground and park arise. The last page of the book is dedicated to facts about the featured machines.


DEMOLITION. Text copyright © 2012 by Sally Sutton. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Brian Lovelock. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, Australia.

Don't miss Sutton and Lovelock's first collaboration, Roadwork.



Reminiscent of Richard Scarry, Cars Galore! by Peter Stein and Bob Staake is not to be missed. Also a must, Chris Van Dusen's If I Built a Car, which is a fantastical trip down design road, made even more fun by Van Dusen's superb rhymes and amazing illustrations.

Rinker and Lichtenheld team up for this sweet, rhyming bedtime story with all the construction vehicles you could ever hope for in Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site.


 Chris Gall's brilliantly conceived, illustrated and told book, Dinotrux, which comes out in paperback on May 1, 2012 (VERY rare for picture books these days) the same day the sequel hits the shelves!!!
Who Made This Cake?

Who Made This Cake? is the rare birthday picture book. What makes this one worth buying are the crews of tiny builders who make, bake and assemble the cake with their construction equipment!

Aside from being the best collection of fairy tales to read to the 4 and under crowd, Yummy! by Lucy Cousins has tons of boy appeal because Cousins is not afraid to show Grandma being gobbled up by the wolf, a big ugly troll fighting a goat or the wolf in the pot after falling down the chimney of the three little pigs!

Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig
Speaking of fairy tales, boys (my own and those at story time) love Eugene Trivisas and Helen Oxenbury's twisted fairy tale, The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. Three gentle wolves try to build a cozy home over and over only to have it destroyed by the big bad pig in one increasingly violent way after another ending, almost, with the dynamite infused explosion above. Let me tell you, boys are ENTHRALLED by this. Happily for us peace loving, pacifist mothers out there, the wolves build a house made out of flowers and, as the pig inhales, readying to blow it down, he is enlightened by the fragrance and stops to smell the roses - and have tea with the wolves!

The Cut-UpsThe Cut-ups at Camp CusterThe Cut-Ups Carry On
The Cut-Ups Crack UpThe Cut-Ups Cut Loose

The Cut-Ups are the dynamic duo of Spud and Joe and are always being outdone by the crafty Mary Frances Hooley and always under the watchful eye of Principal Lamar J Spurgle. Nevertheless, the two manage to cut-up quite a bit and narrowly avoid getting caught. Sadly, these ideal books for boys are out of print, but your library or used book dealer might have them.

Steven Kellogg is a childhood favorite of mine for his fantastical imagination and detailed, brightly colored illustrations. He has also illustrated retellings of some classic American tall tales that boys LOVE! Kellogg also illustrated a few fairy tales, including Jack and the Beanstalk, which has a very creepy, mean giant.

Digger ManDig!Trashy Town

The husband and wife team of Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha (parents of THREE sons) are great at telling stories with trucks. My boys have enjoyed all three of these books and I have had great success reading them at story time as well. Dig! about Mr Rally and his dog Lightening is my favorite, but Digger Man is not to be missed, especially if you have two boys because big brother Oliver lets little brother Gabe tag along. Keep your eyes out for Train Man, due out this year!

I Stink!I'm Fast!
I'm Dirty!I'm Mighty!

Another wife and husband team,Kate McMullan and James McMullan, best known as the designer of theatrical posters, including over 50 for Lincoln Center Theater, are the creators of four fantastic books that boys will love.

Maybelle the Cable CarKaty and the Big SnowMike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Choo Choo: The Story of a Little Engine Who Ran AwayMike Mulligan and More: A Virginia Lee Burton Treasury

Of course, the woman who started it all is Virginia Lee Burton and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, published in 1939! Hopefully you know her other wonderful books, Katy and the Big Snow, Maybelle the Cable Car, Choo-Choo, a really great train story. My favorite will always be Burton's Caldecott winning The Little House.

Kermit the HermitFor little guys with longer attention spans, don't miss these books by my childhood favorite Bill Peet. Peet started his career working as a story editor for Walt Disney (the man) on many movies including Peter Pan, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland to name a few. When his clashes with the firey-tempered Disney became too much, Peet quit and started his career as an author and illustrator of over 40 picture books. Favorite themes of Peet's were the circus, trains and jungle and farm animals. Peet was also environmentally aware and wrote a few books on that theme, dedicating one to Rachel Carson. Peet wrote some of his books in rhyming verse, some of the best I've ever read in a kid's book (second best - Julia Donaldson and Chris Van Dusen) and some as prose. My favorite is Kermit the Hermit

The Caboose Who Got LooseSmokeyJennifer and JosephineThe Whingdingdilly

The Wump WorldFarewell to Shady GladeThe Kweeks of KookatumdeeThe Gnats of Knotty Pine

EllaPamela CamelRandy's Dandy LionsEncore for Eleanor

The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish EggHuge HaroldCyrus the Unsinkable Sea SerpentHow Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head

EliThe Ant and the ElephantHubert's Hair Raising AdventureThe Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock

Cowardly ClydeNo Such ThingsBuford the Little BighornBig Bad Bruce
Fly Homer Fly (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)CapyboppyCock-a-Doodle DudleyChester the Worldly Pig

Margaret Wise Brown is another pioneering genuis of kid's picture books. I still come across titles I never knew she wrote. The Diggers happened to be one of them. Illustrated magnificently by Daniel Kirk, better known for his Library Mouse books, does a fantastic job with the breadth of images and details included in the story. We loved this book so much we have it in board book and paperback!

Kirk is also the illustrator of these books, written by Kevin Lewis, which are also great for boys.
My Truck Is Stuck!

Do I even need to mention Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scary?
Dont' forget to look for Goldbug!

1 comment:

lisaghowie said...

Love this post and I couldn't agree more. You really have to look for those boy books, but they're out there. Thanks for an excellent list of gems!