My first day of school,
The bus was late,
So I jumped in a truck,
I just couldn’t wait.
This truck had a siren
And a driver name Rose.
She put out big fires
With a long fire hose.
And when I got home,
They asked, “How was your day?”
“I learned about trucks!”
Was all I could say.
Truck! is a whimsical adventure fused with an amusing account of daily field trips. A young boy tries to get to school each day by standing by a bus stop. However, the bus is late, and the boy is eager to get to school and so, in the logic of the young, he hops on a different truck each day, trusting that it will take him to school. Learning can happen outside of the school walls, though, and, while the truck doesn’t drop the boy off at school, it does introduce the boy to different jobs truck drivers do – an ice cream truck driver, a firefighter, a garbage truck driver, a tow truck driver and, finally, a bus driver. The boy happily works alongside each different community worker. And when he makes it home at the end of the day, he tells his waiting parents that he learned about trucks.
Groenendyk, a mother of three children, clearly understands a young child’s mind as the story is told from the point of view of a youngster who faces the world with no hesitation or fear, trusting that all will be fine. This story invites the reader to experience or re-experience (if an adult) life before expectations and heavy understandings of the world set in – when the world is still fresh and new and where anything can happen. The boy exudes energy and optimism.
The illustrations support this tone of hopeful confidence. Colourful flowers line the road as the bus drives to school. Green leaves fall from the sky as the boy dances for joy when responding to his parents’ question, “How was your day?” There are painted backgrounds, felt outlines, printed patterns for the ground and trucks, along with photographs and black and white pen drawings. Bright and dark colours are contrasted as well as warm and cool colours. The story engages the reader in studying how the different parts of each illustration were put together. There are occasional speech bubbles when the boy and his parents talk together. The end pages have white childlike drawings of different trucks on a black, chalkboard background. They are typical drawings that school age children draw of their favourite transportation. It makes one wonder whether maybe the author got her children to draw the vehicles on the end pages.
One additional reason why the illustrations are exceptional is that they celebrate the diversity of Canada. The boy’s parents are a mixed union, and the firefighter is female. It isn’t until late in the book that you see that the boy’s father walks with a crutch. One of the ice cream truck’s customers sits in a wheelchair. The people in the book come from many ethnic backgrounds. Diversity is normalized and, in this way, cherished.
The text is simple and fits the point of view of a child telling the story. Every other line rhymes. No difficult vocabulary is used but only that which will be easily understood by 3- to 5-year-old children. There is no overt message or theme as some books have. It is simply a story about an excited, innocent boy exploring the community in which he lives.
Karina Wiebenga, a Learning Support educator in Burnaby, British Columbia.