cover image Big Truck Little Island

Big Truck Little Island

Chris Van Dusen. Candlewick, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-536203-93-6

In his signature art style, Van Dusen (the Mercy Watson series) opens with an expansive bird’s-eye spread of a tugboat headed across a northerly bay on “one bright summer day.” Readers can almost taste the salt air as the tug hauls a barge, on which sits a semi with an “extra large” covered load, to the titular island. Once on land, the driver “came to a switchback, terribly tight,/ then felt the whole payload shift off to his right,” blocking the island’s single road and necessitating a rescue. But instead of focusing on extracting the jackknifed truck, Van Dusen turns his attention to the island’s residents: four children of various skin tones stuck in vehicles on either side of the semi. Blocked from getting to their respective outings, and noting that the adults seem more frustrated than action-oriented, the kids briskly confer, and then “quickly decided, as friends, what to do”: “Listen,” one says, “let’s all exchange cars./ We’ll borrow yours, and then you borrow ours.” The crisply rhyming, economic text underscores both the protagonists’ cut-to-the-chase ingenuity and the story’s deftly delivered core message: when community and trust run deep, life’s inevitable obstacles are a lot easier to work around. An author’s note details the story’s origins on Vinalhaven, Maine. Ages 3–7. (May)