Category Archives: cars and trucks

Books for Car-Loving Kids

For the very young who already exhibit a fascination for things that move, these three board books are excellent choices. Both my son and daughter devoured them (literally — corners of each of their copies have been gnawed away), and I’ve gifted them countless times to friends’ kids.



Fire Truck

By Peter Sis, HarperCollins, 1998

Once there was a little boy named Matt who loved fire trucks. His first words in the morning were “fire truck.” The last thing he said before he went to bed was “fire truck.”  And one day, when he woke up, he was…a fire truck.

Peter Sis’s work, even here at its simplest, actually gives me goose bumps. He is just. That. Good. And so respectful of how children’s minds and hearts require a different sustenance than adults. This story pays tribute to a child’s powerful imagination and the very basic line drawings  — strategically splashed with fire-engine red — enchant.




B y Byron Barton,  HarperCollins, 1986

On the road, here come the trucks. They come through tunnels. They go over the bridge.

I basically gave away a third of the text above. This book is winningly uncomplicated. Basically, trucks deliver bread,  load up with garbage,  bring the newspapers, and so on. But the colorful illustrations pop off the page, and the people  are a cross between Lois Lenski’s Papa Small and Fisher-Price’s old-school Little People.  



Sheep in a Jeep

By Nancy Shaw, Illustrated by Margot Apple, Houghton Mifflin, 1986

Beep! Beep! Sheep in a jeep on a hill that’s steep. Uh-oh! The jeep won’t go. 

I was so taken with this book when someone gave it to my son that I promptly sought out all the other “Sheep” books at the library — “Sheep in a Shop,” “Sheep on a Ship,”something about sheep at Halloween, etc. Sadly, none of them came close to matching the easy charm of this one, the first and by far the best of the series. The gist: Five adorable sheep are out for a ride in their jeep, and are not only terrible drivers, but easily distracted. The rhyming is spot-on — fun to read aloud and listen to — and the illustrations, particularly the ever-changing expressions on the sheeps’ faces, never get old.

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The Two Cars


By Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

New York Review Books, 1955

The two cars came to a nice, flat stretch of road. They both drove along smoothly, not faster than allowed, but not slower either. Their motors liked the cool night air and purred like kittens.

I wish I could remember where I found this book. It was somewhere random, like a book store in D.C.’s Union Station. It was wrapped tightly in plastic, so I couldn’t leaf through the pages, but I was so charmed by the drawing on the cover (not to mention the quality of the binding), that I bought it, stuck it in my office closet, and gave it to my son for whatever big gift-giving holiday came up next. Neither he nor I was disappointed. It’s “The Tortoise and the Hare,” but with cars. One is fast, shiny, and boastful. The other is an old jalopy, scratched up a little, but reliable and safe. On a magic moonlit night, the doors of their garage swing open and they head out to see who is “the best car on the road.” The d’Aulaires were a renowned husband-wife team known for their illustrated versions of Norse and Greek myths. The drawings within — some black and white, some color — remind me of New Yorker cartoons, but with sentiment and an accessible sagacity, and the writing is nothing less than dreamy.

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The Little Auto


By Lois Lenski

Random House, 1934

Mr. Small has a little Auto. It is red and shiny. He likes to look at it.

When my son was one, he asked me to read this book to him. Every. Single. Day. He loved everything about it, from the simple “Dick and Jane”-style text to Lenski’s trademark modest illustrations. On the surface, not much happens — basically, Mr. Small takes his car out of the little garage, drives to town, gets rained on, and returns home — but that’s the appeal of it. You feel dropped into Mr. Small’s calm, innocent world, where the worst thing that happens is a flat tire. (But it’s easily fixed and then the sun comes out.) If you need a book for a car-loving toddler, this is it. And check out the other fabulous books in the series — The Little Fire Engine, The Little Farm, Papa Small, and Policeman Small.  (He’s quite the Renaissance Man.) The only disappointment is The Little Airplane, which, quite honestly, reads like a pilot’s manual.

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