Summer Reading No. 1
Travel season begins now. Resorts and roadside attractions and Dairy Queens are all spruced up. The OPEN signs are once again flipped to the side that matters. Will you be traveling the highways and backroads, looking for adventure?
I’ve read a new picture book that made me look differently at something travelers take for granted: truck stops. In fact, the book is called Truck Stop. Written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Melissa Iwai, it tops the list of my favorite new picture books because of its read-aloud-ability, the illustrations, the endpapers, but most of all for the story.
We’ve all learned that families come with many different descriptions. Truck Stop helped me realize that families exist wherever we’ve learned to look out for one another, to take the time to learn someone’s likes and dislikes, and to share a heartfelt smile. In the case of the Truck Stop family, those smiles are exchanged before the sun comes up!
Anne Rockwell understands the interests of the three‑, four‑, and five-year-old crowd. The endpapers have energetic, detailed drawings of many types of specialty trucks: eighteen-wheeler, milk truck, school bus, dump truck, ice cream truck (yummm). A number of them take part in the drama unfolding in the book.
More importantly, we get to meet the truck drivers who frequent the truck stop. “Mom, Dad, and I” prepare each morning to greet Eighteen-Wheeler and “Sam, his driver.” “Milk Tank and Maisie are next.” As each customer walks through the door, “Mom, Dad, and me” (a child who could easily be a boy or a girl) know just what to throw on the grill or pull out of the bakery case.
The trucks are taken care of, too. Uncle Marty has the service garage next door. He checks tire pressure, tops up gas tanks, and brings an old green pickup back to life.
Melissa Iwai’s illustrations are partially acrylic paint — beautiful, vibrant sunrises and dimensional highways, part printed paper and colored paper used effectively in collage style, and part India ink. She pays such careful attention to the details in the book that children-who-notice-everything will not be disappointed. The breakfasts slowly dwindle on the counter-top plates until Maisie has only sprinkles left and Sam’s bits of egg yolk lend a realistic touch. The diner’s floor is polka-dotted and the silvery milk truck shines pink in the morning’s sunrise.
All of this is accomplished with words that are interesting to read out loud but could easily be deciphered by a beginning reader. The story has good humor, spice, and a bit of mystery. It satisfies the spot that wants all to be right with the world and reminds us that family occurs in many heart-warming ways.
Learning about this Truck Stop will have me looking around when we stop in at any of the hundreds lining the freeways and backroads of the USA: are these folks a family? Do they ask after pets and mothers and children? Do they share graduation photos and favorite songs?
Thanks Anne Rockwell and Melissa Iwai … you’ve made the world a richer place for me and many sure-to-be fans of Truck Stop.