Monday, October 13, 2014

One Old, One New - Picture Books About Construction

**Trying out a new feature here on the Bookshelf - a review that combines my thoughts about a classic along with those about a newer title, with a particular eye towards diversity. Like this type of thing? Let me know in the comments!**

It's kind of amazing how much kids change over the span of just a few years. I've been thinking about this the last few days, because Sprout's the V.I.P. in his kindergarten class this week and we've just made an "All About Me" poster for him to share. So, of course, that meant going through a whole lot of old photos to sort out the ones he wanted. And remembering all the different phases he's gone through thus far, noticing how the obsessions come and go, and which ones have remained (dinosaurs - all about the dinosaurs!).

Besides those prehistoric critters, an affinity for machinery has definitely hung in with Sprout. He's not as manic about trains as he once was, but we still go out of our way to pass by the tracks when we can, and every trip through a construction zone is cause for celebration. (Recently they excavated some gas tanks at a station near our home - you should have heard the excitement when we rode our bike past a huge hole with an excavator *inside* the hole!)

So, picture books on construction have been a staple since Sprout joined our family. One of the first we read him was Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Now let me just say, I love that book, and so does Sprout. Hubs read this to him just about every single night for the first year or two he was in our family - waaay before he understood the words or story, when he was still learning English even, and he was riveted by it. A lot of that was the pictures, I think, and really that's hard not to be moved by. Hello, there's even a picture of Mary Ann digging the basement for the town hall and she's way down in the hole - not unlike that excavator we saw last week!

But of course, being published so many years ago, Mike Mulligan is a whitewash. And while I don't think there's anything wrong with reading a construction book like that to kids, it's nice to know that now there are much more inclusive choices being published, like the new title by Sally SuttonConstruction. This is the latest in a series of heavy-equipment themed titles by Sutton (read our review of Roadwork). While the story is a lot simpler than Mike Mulligan, there is a definite plot kids will follow, as the project is gradually revealed (spoiler alert: they're building a library! Woot woot!).

Construction showcases Brian Lovelock's trademark realistic style, which will feed young fans' cravings for up-close shots of big rigs and building equipment. (Nice glossary at the back too, when your kiddos want to know more.) Best of all, though, this title features not only racial diversity among the workers, but also gender diversity, with a female site director and a number of men stocking the library shelves. Way to go Sutton and Lovelock - I adore seeing roles reversed in such a way.

So while I'd definitely recommend Mike Mulligan -- there's a reason that it's hung around for so long, after all -- I also suggest adding in an updated perspective on building with Construction. Both great fun!

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I love the one old, one new series idea! "Mike Mulligan" was one of my childhood favorites, and I was a bit depressed when I re-read it and most of my other favorite kids classics and realized they were 100% white. This is a great way to hang onto the classics while balancing them with diverse reads. Perfect for unit studies with preschoolers, too.