cover image Tire Mountain

Tire Mountain

Andrea Cheng, , illus. by Ken Condon. . Boyds Mills, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-932425-60-4

In this understated and affecting story, Aaron’s mama wants a better life for her family—“someplace clean and beautiful.” To her, that means moving the family away from the smelly, noisy city street corner where they live and operate a tire business. Aaron loves his corner and the mountain of used tires produced by his father’s work (“Dad can change a tire faster than I can say Aaron Jacob Johnson”). When his mother shows him a pamphlet with pictures of “perfect” suburban houses, he wishes he could “tear it into a thousand pieces.” Détente is finally reached after Aaron turns a nearby empty lot into a clean, beautiful place of his own-–a playground outfitted with flower gardens, a swing, a tunnel and sandbox, all built with tires from the mountain. Cheng (Marika ) gracefully articulates the quiet understanding arrived at by mother and son. “Mama folds the pamphlet and uses it like a fan,” she writes. “ 'When we do move, some day,” asks Aaron gingerly, “ 'do you think we could take a tire... to make a tire swing?’ ” “ 'That could be arranged,’ ” responds Mama with a hug. At first glance, Condon’s (Sky Scrape/ City Scape ) blocky paintings feel wooden in comparison with the emotionally astute prose; even Aaron doesn’t seem quite at home in his environment. But as the story unfolds, the warm colors and mural-like qualities feel absolutely right. It’s a kid’s-eye view of the world, where physical presences offer rock-solid comfort. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)