Want to Play Trucks? by Ann Stott, illustrated by Bob Graham
Want to Play Trucks? by Ann Stott & Bob Graham
Review Copy from Candlewick Press
Want to Play Trucks? is a superb picture book that gently, gracefully subverts gender stereotypes. The story begins on the endpapers where readers see two families walking toward each other, mothers, backpacks, strollers and toys in tow. The title page shows Atwood playground, with benches, see-saws, swings and a sandbox, a city skyline in the hazy background. Together in the sandbox, we learn that Jack and Alex meet there almost every day. Jack likes trucks, big ones, the kind that can wreck things. Alex likes dolls, pink ones with sparkles and tutus. When Jack asks Alex if he wants to play trucks, Alex responds, "Let's play dolls . . . that drive trucks." Play goes well, Alex's doll driving Jack's trucks, until Jack insists that Alex's doll can't wear a tutu and drive a crane. Alex disagrees and an argument seems imminent when Jack, in the simple, straightforward, wonderful way kids have, points out that the tutu can't fit in the driver's seat. Alex promptly changes the doll into purple overalls and play resumes, ending with a visit from the ice cream truck and lots of big smiles. Although Graham, a magnificent illustrator and author, did not write this book, he brings his trademark diversity and compassion to his illustrations for Want to Play Trucks?, perfectly pairing with Stott's story, which does not use gendered pronouns. As Jack and Alex play in the sandbox, passers-by in a wheelchair, a hijab, and even a fellow who, over the course of a few pages, ends up walking off with his dog riding on his shoulders, add depth and humor to the story.
Two of my three children are adults now, and I always thought of myself as both conscious of gender stereotypes and actively working to avoid them when they were little, but I find that, working with children aged five through twelve every day for the last five years, these stereotypes are deeply ingrained in my subconscious and I am constantly checking myself, my thoughts, perceptions and presumptions. I am deeply grateful for a book like the one Stott and Graham have gifted us. It is the reminder that I need, repeatedly, that children aren't born with ideas about gender and we, as gatekeepers and influencers, need to be conscious and intentional about what we imprint on them.
Bob Graham's picture books are every bit as marvelous as thoughtful, unforgettable and sweetly straightforward as this one. He has a way of telescoping, going from a compassionate worldview to a beautifully intimate moment in 32 pages. I hope you will seek them out!
More books by Bob Graham