I am predicting obsession status for this great new picture book from Walker Books Australia (2008). Roadworks was written by New Zealand author, Sally Sutton. I don't know her books, but I'll certainly be on the look-out for them. She enters into the mind of a young action fan, and gives him great active verbs and noises:
"Seal the road. Seal the road.
Make it hot and squishy.
Spread the sticky tar and stones.
Sally has written each page according to a simple rhythmic, rhyming scheme, which makes the book fun to read and a wonderful model for children to base their own writing on. Another great feature is the page of Machine Facts at the back, a boon for we readers who actually don't know our Excavators from our Front-End Loaders.
Brian Lovelock's illustrations give real value to Roadworks. He depicts men and women road workers, and adds great details so that the book works even better as an informational text. Brian's earth moving equipment is realistic, but simplified slightly for young readers. All the stages of building a road are set out for children to understand, from when the engineers plan it, to when the kids' school bus drives along it.
There are so many activities you could do as a follow-up to Roadworks. Youngsters will love to paint, draw, sculpt or build their own road-working equipment. Have fun with toy excavators, carving out a road in a sand tray. If you have time, this can make an excellent start to an elementary mapping activity, where kids learn to see the link between symbols and real life. Older children might like to experiment with the rhyme. Encourage them to pull the rhyme apart and work out the beat, before deciding on a theme, and inventing their own rhyme. Many of the words used in the book are onomatopoeic - they could begin a collection of such words, or write their own poems.
I road-tested (just a little BoCho humour!) this great picture book on a young friend. He's two and a half, and mad about trucks and diggers. When we'd finished reading it, his reaction was summed up in one word: "Again?"
Stop Press! Roadworks is a picture book finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards.