Right now, Cheerios is giving away free children’s books in boxes of cereal. They serve as mini advertisements for additional books in a series that can be purchased at stores. I have mixed feelings about the message of this one.
These free books are paperback, 5 x 7 inches, with 32 pages and a stapled binding. That is a good size to stuff into a takealong bag, and the price is right for something that might get lost or left somewhere.
Each book has the text in both English and Spanish. The English is in black print and the Spanish in dark blue, just underneath. The idea of a bilingual book is pretty neat. I think that this has a lot of potential for fun or as a learning tool. One of the Spanish lines is a regular tongue twister, and is fun just to say for how it sounds. “ Pumper Pat lava las llaves de un llavero.”
The idea of this book is that the trucks in a junkyard decide to scrounge through the junk and find things to build a fort. Still a fun idea. The pictures are colorful and would be attractive to kids, especially most boys, because of the big truck theme.
After that, there are quite a few things that I don’t like about the story. But I admit that I’m pretty persnickity about what I read to kids.
First of all, there are 8 boy trucks and 5 girl trucks. That is more equitable than my impression when I first read it. When I went through it again and counted the names I discovered that there were 5 girls. If you just go by the pictures, there are only 2 that look like girls (and one of those is pretty generic- most are indicated to be girls only by a gender-specific name and the addition of eyelashes), and the one that will appeal to most girls is the garbage truck! Now you might think that it is odd that I, not a girly-girl, thinks that there should be more trucks that look like girls. Yet, I know that most of these pictures aren’t going to appeal to typical girls. It’s like how the industry thought that girls didn’t like video games, when the problem was that the game designers didn’t know how to make games that girls like.
I do like how the trucks are resourceful in finding things with which to build their fort.
I don’t like some of the things the trucks do. There are mixed messages. Melvin is a cement mixer and he makes a pile of bricks saying, “A fort can’t be safe without sturdy walls.” (It also says that he mixes up a pile of bricks and concrete blocks. Huh? You don’t mix up the bricks... you mix the mortar). Then Pete drives by and knocks over Melvin’s pile of bricks. Well, that’s not nice!
Max is a monster truck. While Melvin may have been concerned about safety, Max just drives over a pile of gas cans. It doesn’t even say empty gas cans. Is this something I want to suggest to my kids? I think not!
So in the end they build this great big awesome fort, and the last line is “Let’s smash and crash it and build it again!” Now, I know that kids like to knock things down, and that since this started with junk it’s not the same as destroying property, but this never was an activity that I felt I wanted to promote in my boys. They were good enough at the smash and crash without reinforcing the idea.
There are some puzzles and coloring activities in the back of the book. In this size format, they are pretty small for kids without good fine motor control.
I also don’t like the font. They have chosen one where the lower case g sits on the line so that it looks like the number nine instead of extending below the line the way it should be written. I don’t think we should confuse kids who are just learning how to do things correctly with cute fonts until they know what is correct and what is “for fun.”
So now you have my very opinionated view of a simple free book.