Sunday, April 19, 2009

Book Review, Roadworks

When some little boys - I think you would have to admit, it is mostly boys - discover things that GO, it can rapidly become an obsession. There was certainly a stage in my life where if I'd had to read one more Thomas the Tank Engine book, or listen to a tape, or watch a video, I would have had to wash my own mouth out with soap. My dreams were haunted by Gordon, Percy and the Fat Controller. But my son loved them. Looking back, I think that obsession was one of the important stages in Tim's pre-reading. Kids need books to love, just as much as they need soft toys or (gulp) trains called Thomas. By hearing the story over and over, they are internalizing language. The repetition enables them to learn the book by heart, and that is yet another important stage in learning to read independently.

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.
Sploshy! SPLASHY!

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


  1. Kim Chatel19 April, 2009

    Vroom! Vroom! Those were my stepson's first words. Lol! This reminds me of another favorite "Preschool to the Rescue!"

  2. Corey Schwartz20 April, 2009

    Sounds perfect for my little Truckaholic.

    Recent blog post: Serious Trouble

  3. I'll look out for it, Kim!

    Recent blog post: Book Review, Roadworks

  4. Not only for him, but for you too, Corey. It's definitely a book I'd have no problem reading aloud over and over again.

    Recent blog post: Book Review, Roadworks

  5. C loved Thomas. I just like(d) saying Sir Top-um Hat. This sounds like a great series!

    Recent blog post: National Library Week: Books for Your Classroom Library

  6. I don't think it's a series yet, Terry, but that's a great idea!

    Recent blog post: Book Review, Roadworks

  7. The cover of this book brings back memories of the children's show Bob the Builder!

    Recent blog post: Picture Books for Peace

  8. Luckily Tim was really too old for Bob the B., or I think I'd have had nightmares about the song.

    Recent blog post: Book Review, Roadworks


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