August 20, 2017

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Reading on the Go! Two Transportation Titles | SLJ Spotlight

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Kids are always on the move. Here are two titles for the elementary set that explore the various ways children (and adults) get around. Inna Gertsberg’s The Way Downtown: Adventures in Public Transit is a humorous romp through the fictional city of Zoom, and, just in time for the new school year, Kate and Jim McMullan’s I’m Smart follows a school bus on his morning route.

Gertsberg, Inna. The Way Downtown: Adventures in Public Transit. illus. by Mike Lowery. 44p. glossary. Kids Can. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781771385527.

Gr 1-3 –An enjoyable explanation of how residents of the fictional city of Zoom travel using a variety of public transit options—buses, subway, light rail, and ferries. Large, colorful, and detailed illustrations and bits of humor accompany each story, making them both fun and informative to read. Readers learn about the travels of the Zanies, a family of street performers; Robbie, a first grader and a photographer; and Agent Rybka, who is much more than just a spy. There are five separate stories in all. The writing and illustrations are not only laced with comedy, but also provide a clear sense of how a public transit system works. Each story is illustrated with a start-to-finish numbered flowchart followed by a more detailed sequence of illustrations. The artwork makes use of spreads and comic book–style sequences with speech bubbles, thought bubbles, and lots of additional information inserted as labels, definitions, and extra facts. The images also show how the public transit system works for the city’s varied population—people of different ages, races, religions, and styles of dress; those who have disabilities; and the visually impaired. The book includes a glossary of words with clear, child-friendly definitions. VERDICT An excellent source for social studies units dealing with urban transportation and as a mentor text for showing how words and illustrations can combine to produce educational hilarity.–Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York

redstarMcMullan, Kate. I’m Smart! illus. by Jim McMullan. 40p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062449238.

PreS-Gr 2 –Oozing confidence and energy, a big-eyed, grinning school bus describes his morning route, informing listeners that it “takes BRAINS to do my job—drive you to SCHOOL and keep you SAFE!” As with previous titles, the McMullans (I’m Brave!; I Stink!; I’m Cool!) infuse everyday activities with an infectious excitement bound to entice vehicle-loving youngsters. When the bus’s lights flash amber, it means “Cars and trucks, SLO-O-O-OW DOWN!” And when the lights turn red and the bus’s stop paddle pops out, he commands, “Everybody stop! And don’t move till I quit flashing.” When a sporty silver car doesn’t heed the bus’s warning to halt, a police car shows up—to the glee of the bus’s passengers. After a closed lane brings traffic to a crawl, the bus keeps the bored kids from getting antsy with a pop quiz, alerts them about a bump in the road, and, at last, delivers them to school. Rendered in bold colors and fonts and rarely skimping on the exclamation points, the text is utterly exuberant, ideal for read-alouds. Though the vehicles have a goofy, cartoonish look, the watercolors are painterly and elegant, particularly those depicting the wide expanse of houses along the bus’s route. VERDICT A perfect back-to-school storytime option, and a fun way to prepare children who are nervous about taking the school bus for the first time.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

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This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Della Farrell About Della Farrell

Della Farrell is an Assistant Editor at School Library Journal and Editor of Series Made Simple

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