Phoebe & Digger by Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Jeff Newman
There are more than a few reasons to love Phoebe & Digger by Tricia Springstubb and illustrated by Jeff Newman. Fist, Phoebe & Digger is a book about a little girl and her truck in which a girl playing with a truck is no big deal. I realize that little girls play with trucks all the time and have been for a couple of decades now, but there are so few picture books that depict little girls playing with trucks that it is worth pointing out. Also, and I realize that this is changing (at a glacial pace) as well, but I also think it's worth noting that Phoebe has brown skin. But, the greatest thing about Phoebe & Digger is that it's not a book about a girl with a truck or a girl with brown skin, it's a book about siblings and bullies.
Phoebe & Digger begins, "When Mama got a new baby . . . Phoebe got a new digger. Mama and the baby were always busy. So were Phoebe and Digger." Mama decides it's time to go to the park where Phoebe and Digger get into a bit of trouble. Phoebe and Digger develop a little bit of attitude at the playground and they make a little boy cry. Soon it seems everyone on the playground except Phoebe is crying.
But the tables turn when a "big girl with mean teeth" decides that she wants to play with Digger and doesn't want to have to ask. Phoebe tries using her words with this big girl, but she is really mean. And a name caller. Phoebe finds herself about to cry when Mama arrives and saves the day.
There are plenty of books that try to capture quintessential childhood experience, from the frustrations of sharing to the excitement of getting an ice cream in the park. Most of these books fall flat in their attempts to be universal and appealing, mostly because being universal and appealing is boring. What is memorable and worthwhile about Phoebe & Digger are the differences that make it standout - the little girl with her digger, the crybaby boy in the sandbox and the angry pigtails on the big mean girl (who appears in other spots around the playground tormenting other small children). These are the qualities of the book that will give your children pause, ten or twenty years from now, when they turn to a friend and ask, "Do you remember that book from when we were kids with the little girl and her truck?"
Source: Review Copy