Big Truck Little Island

One of the many pleasures of Chris Van Dusen's picture book Big Truck Little Island is its throwback quality. There's the bouncy rhyming text, the primary-and-earth-tones palette and the absence of smartphones as the story's characters attempt to solve one dilly of a logistical pickle.

One summer day on an island, a truck tootles along until the driver "came to a switchback, terribly tight,/ then felt the whole payload shift off to his right." The truck tips over onto the narrow road, blocking traffic. Soon "two cars in a hurry arrived from the north./ Then from the south came a third and a fourth." That makes four cars, four flustered parents and, fortunately, four resourceful kids who happen to know one another (it's a small island). They put their heads together: why don't the north-driving drivers switch cars with the south-driving drivers, and vice versa?

In his author's note, Van Dusen (King Hugo's Huge Ego) writes that Big Truck Little Island is based on a true-life incident and that "I can't think of a better example of problem solving and cooperation than what took place that day on Vinalhaven, off the coast of Maine." But within the story, he resists overselling his message about the rewards of neighborliness: it's the four kids outthinking their parents that will linger in readers' minds, as will the closing spread showing the kids at a fairground beholding a Ferris wheel lit up against the dusky blue sky--the "cargo" the truck was hauling. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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