For my first foray into discussing children’s books, I thought I’d tackle my four-year-old’s favorite subject: cars. Somewhere around the age of two, he became obsessed, and it spans many forms, from toys to books to knowing every car symbol as we drive. I read to him at an early age, something I think helped contribute to the fact that he, like his mama, loves to read. We go to the library often, usually once a week. And every time, I’ll ask what kind of books he’d like to get that day, and the answer has almost always been “car books.” We had a few weeks of bugs, but we are now back to cars.
Now that he’s a bit older and very curious, he really enjoys the non-fiction styles where he can learn facts and names of different types. But before that, I feel strongly that we read every fiction book about cars and trucks in the children’s picture book section at our library. So, I thought I’d share a list of mine and my son’s favorites of what we’ve been able to find, listed in no particular order since “favorites” often change to a four-year-old.
1. If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen
This is a newer addition to our home collection, but we read it often. A boy tells his father about the car he would build, and it is told in a flowing rhyme. It is really well done, something I find difficult for picture books at this age, and most of my favorites manage it properly. My son loves the vibrant pictures. It is a very retro style with bright colors which I think plays well for this age range. He enjoys the silly things that the boy puts on and in his car, but I think he’s disappointed that there is only one vehicle in the whole book.
2. Cars and Trucks and Things that Go by Richard Scarry
If the last one didn’t have enough variety of cars, this is the complete opposite. This book is packed with cars, many of them silly and made-up. There is actually a story following the Pig family as they drive through town, so there is something to read on each page, and it can be pretty funny. However, be warned that this book is long, around 70 pages, I believe, so it doesn’t make for good nighttime reading. However, my son loves to talk about all the different cars or to play look-and-find. The re-readability on this is great. You can also find the little gold bug on each page. Plus, anything by Richard Scarry is a classic must-read.
3. 20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street by Mark Lee and Kurt Cyrus
Another book with a great rhyme scheme. A boy sees a truck get stuck in his street, and a traffic jam slowly builds, so he counts and names all the trucks. While this book doesn’t have any fancy or silly vehicles in it, I think my son just loves that they are the star of the show. It’s great for teaching children to count to twenty, and he loves when we get to the page to count them all together. When I got to read a book to him and his class for his 4th birthday, this was the book he chose.
4. Monster Trucks by Mark Todd
When you take something as cool as monster trucks, turn them into live trucks, add funny names and silly rhymes, it’s a recipe for a favorite book. The illustration style isn’t my favorite. I prefer it more polished, but in this case, it works and it’s fun. My son loves the silly names that each truck has somewhere on them, and I have to say them every time we read the book. Some of the rhymes don’t flow as well, but then you have great ones like, “Monster trucks, Monster Trucks. Green, gargling, garbage trucks. Eating and crunching, munching and slurping, just don’t be around when this guy starts burping,” I recited that from memory. That’s either a sign of a great page or that I’ve read it too many times. Note that I bought the board book, and there were a few of the trucks missing that were in the hardcover version. Mark Todd also has a book called Food Trucks in a similar fashion.
5. Cool Cars (Amazing Machines) by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker
This was a book I bought on a whim, looking for car-related books. The illustrations are cute and the rhymes are simple but well done. The Amazing Machines series are relatively short books, but they teach a little something about the subject, always some type of transportation. The last page will be a diagram of the title vehicle, showing some parts and explaining what they do. It’s a little rudimentary, but it’s a great addition to the little story. My son got the set of five paperbacks, and they are all a part of our regular reading rotation.
6. Busy Trucks on the Go by Eric Ode
I got this book from a friend who sold Usborne. I mostly got it for the subject matter, but it was so much better than I anticipated. The rhyming is some of the best I’ve read, and it makes for such an easy read. It is very lyrical and soothing. I think I even read on the Usborne page that the author wrote it as a song originally. The pictures are of a father and son noticing all of the trucks around town. It is illustrated in bright colors and is not too busy. It keeps the focus on the trucks, which is what my son likes.
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Litchenheld (likely the best-done rhyming scheme I have ever encountered)
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry
Roadwork by Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock
Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night by Brianna Caplan Sayres and Christian Slade
Build Dogs Build by James Horvath
Bonus: Nonfiction Books
1. The Truck Book by Harry McNaught
My son loves the different kinds of vintage trucks shown in this book. The colors are muted, but each truck is interesting to him. Some pages give information about one type of truck, like a fire truck or logging truck. It will give a little factoid or tell a story about those types of trucks. Other pages give a more generic description of what trucks do while displaying various types and giving their names. The vintage feel of the illustrations somehow makes it more fun to read.
2. Big Book of Big Trucks & Big Book of Big Machines by Usborne
Both of these books have some great trucks in them, shown in vibrant and fun illustrations. There are fold-outs, which can be a positive or a negative, depending on how you look at it. They give facts about certain trucks, but my son’s favorite pages are the ones where it packs in the trucks and pictures on the page. It gives the name, which he memorizes, and says what it is used for. While these books were originally sold by consultants, I have seen some of these titles at Barnes and Noble, so at least now they are a little easier to get your hands on.
3. Cars, Trains, Ships, and Planes by DK Publishing
This is the kind of book my son goes nuts for now. Since he’s only four, it’s not a great book for reading. We can only sit together for so long and hardly make a dent in it. But he loves all of the pictures of anything transportation. When he reads on his own, he’ll flip through each page, pointing at all the pictures and saying what they are. He will ask about any vehicle he doesn’t know, learn the name, and the next time around he’ll say it. Or, if he’s feeling particularly silly, he’ll come up with his own wacky name for it, and they often sound like sports cars (A Stontnata B92-X for example).
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Are there any great books you and your child enjoy about cars or trucks that I left off my list? We’d love more recommendations! What types of books do you like to read to your children and would like to see more about here on my blog?