cover image Junkyard


Mike Austin. S&S/Beach Lane, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4424-5961-8

Two civic-minded robots dubbed the Munching Machines decide to turn their junkyard home, which is an all but in name a Superfund site, into a fabulous community garden and playground. Possessing figurative if not literal ironclad constitutions, they ingest everything within their impressive reach—not just “messy mounds of shopping carts,/ picture frames, and bicycles,” but also “truckloads of stinky fish oil,/ barrels of sticky paste,/ a swimming pool of goopy goo,/ and tubs of toxic waste!” They take a break only long enough to let rip a triumphant “BURP!” before turning the yard into “something new.” Austin’s (Monsters Love Colors) rhyming clomps along like a robot, but the listicle aspect of his text (“They pile dirt high/ to make mountains for hiking/ and a long winding trail/ for running and biking”) should prod readers to lean in and contemplate their own perfect playgrounds. While the two mechanical heroes have just one personality setting—eagerly happy—Austin’s digital illustrations are exuberantly jumbled and layered, making for a bright, colorful mess with an appropriately distressed texture reminiscent of block printing. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)