CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 12. . . November 24, 2017
Monster Truck Buck is a fun little story about a boy named Gus and his toy monster truck named Buck. Buck, as you may have guessed, is not your typical monster truck. Buck is alive (at least for Gus), and he and Gus go on adventures together. When Gus has a problem to solve, only Buck is equal to standing up to the task.
The story, itself, is charming. The idea of a child going on adventures with a seemingly living toy is well-trodden territory in children’s literature, but this picture book is still good fun. Even though Buck is the cause of the problem (the recycling and trash being knocked over), he also helps solve it. I like that O’Dell decided to include the recycling as well as the trash to subtly underline its importance. One element of the story that I really enjoyed was the sense of humor that O’Dell infused it with. It’s wacky, it’s got opportunities to be loud when reading to a child, and it could definitely be fun for a more rambunctious reader. Doll’s illustrations work well with the narrative. In one two-page spread in particular, Buck is pulling Gus along so fast we see Gus’s underwear billowing out behind him like a parachute, exposing his bare bottom, while the family cat clings to a railing as though being blown horizontally by hurricane force winds. These are the types of images that will have children laughing.
All of the illustrations in this book are a lot of fun. The copyright page indicates that they were created with acrylics on mahogany panels. It is clear just by looking at them that these images were painted, but they maintain a cartoony charm that will likely appeal to some children. This charm is no doubt amplified by the anthropomorphizing of Buck and a few other vehicles who make a very brief appearance. The look of Buck is approachable, and, while I am tempted to draw some parallels to the cars in Disney’s Cars, I do realize that there are only so many places one could place eyes on a car, and give Doll credit for differentiating his take with a different eye shape. Gus has a backwards hat, buck teeth, and a very expressive face that helps to bring life into the story. The sketches used for the endpapers are a nice touch that may give kids interested in art and drawing some insight into the illustrator’s creative process.
While I did enjoy the story, as well as the images, the only issue I take with the book is some of the writing, itself. Monster Truck Buck relies heavily on rhyming. While the rhyming, itself, is done well and likely caused O’Dell to add in some nice vocabulary words (like ‘traction’), with rhyming comes rhythm. For the most part, this book has good rhythm, but there are a few sections that read a bit awkwardly. This is not helped by a few odd spelling and capitalization choices. For example, while it may seem clever to write the word “consTRUCKtion” it is likely to confuse readers and interrupt the flow of the story. After reading through it a few times and reading it aloud, it is not something that would completely ruin the flow of the story, but it is sometimes noticeable. It made reading aloud a little trickier than it is with some more evenly-metered picture books, but the rhymes help the lines land. For these reasons, I do not see Monster Truck Buck becoming a go-to for storytime, but I do think that there are a lot of children who would be interested in this story. Cars and trucks are ever-popular, and Buck will likely bring some joy to young lovers of monster trucks.
Recommended with Reservations.
Alex Matheson is a children’s librarian in Vancouver, BC.
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Commercial use is available through a contract with the CM Association. This Creative Commons license allows publishers whose works are being reviewed to download and share said CM reviews provided you credit the CM Association.