Vroom. Clank. Beep beep! Whee-ooo whee-ooo whee-ooo. I’ve learnt a lot about heavy machinery and the sounds that various vehicles make since having a toddler and reading a lot of books and trucks and planes and heavy machinery to her. ‘Books about heavy things with wheels’ is basically a whole sub-genre within the world of children’s literature in itself, and here are a handful of my favourite picture books about vehicles (these are also all toddler-approved!).
All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors by Davina Bell, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie
This is my favourite book of 2020 so far, and it is a charming and delightful book about a little boy who is obsessed with tractors, much to his mum’s dismay (she’s not upset about the tractors as such; she just wants him to read other books because I think she’s a bit bored of tractors, honestly). They go on a trip to the library where he wants to check out yet another book about tractors and when his mum tries to object, he explains patiently all of the factors of why he loves tractors. I love everything about this book: the read-aloud-ability, the story, the characters, the role of the library and librarian, and the gorgeous illustrations. You know how sometimes you find a picture book that you think is basically perfect and there’s nothing about it that you would change? For me, this book is it (I also wrote about my love for this book here).
Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
I love all the books in the Construction Site series, and this one is a particularly lovely one because of all the bedtime elements it incorporates. I love that Crane Truck cuddles with a teddy bear and has a nightlight, Cement Mixer has a blankie, and Bulldozer snuggles into his soft dirt bed. Construction vehicles are usually depicted as loud and hard and productive; it’s quite nice to see their softer side. The prose is great to read aloud and I am huge fan of the illustrations.
Three Cheers for Kid McGear by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by AG Ford
Another book from the Construction Site series, and this is the first one to focus on one specific character. Kid McGear, skid steer, is the newest and smallest member of the crew. She receives a skeptical and lukewarm welcome because all the other vehicles think she’s too small to be useful, but she shows them exactly how useful she can be when some of the bigger trucks get stuck and she saves the day. This book has the same trademark read-aloud-ability as the other books in the series and the same warm and vibrant illustrations.
Two Tough Trucks by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, illustrated by Hilary Leung
This is a fun picture book by one of my favourite children’s writers (and with illustrations from an artist I also adore), about two trucks on their first day of school. One truck is loud and fast (and honestly seems a bit mean), and the other is the slow and steady tortoise. The teacher makes them partner up and after a few tense moments, lessons are learnt and friendships are formed. I usually don’t like books with obvious morals and lessons but I really enjoyed this one.
Planes Go by Steve Light
I both love and hate this book, but it’s mostly love. It’s a board book, part of a series that also includes titles like Trucks Go and Trains Go, and it has different kinds of planes on every page and the different kinds of noises they make. This is the most expressive onomatopoeia I’ve ever seen in a book, and it makes for a fun read-aloud, though this is also the part I have the love/hate relationship with: some of those noises are really hard to make!
Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper
What’s not to love about anthropomorphised traffic lights and construction vehicles? This is the story of Little Green and Little Red (the green and red traffic lights) and how they help a crew of construction vehicles build a bridge. It’s a charming story with bright and bold illustrations that is a very fun book to read aloud, particularly as you get to whisper and shout at various points in the story. This is the book that taught my toddler that red means stop, green means go, and yellow means slow down (which she tells us whenever we’re in the car now. Except lately she’s started saying red means go go go! Which I mean yes, that’s what a lot of drivers here actually do but that is not the lesson I want you to be learning, child).
So here you go! A nice selection of vehicles books featuring trucks, planes, farm vehicles, and construction vehicles — whoever said all heavy things with wheels were all the same? (Me, before having a child and reading these books.)