Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book #120: If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen

Image from ChrisVanDusen.com

One day Jack is riding in the back seat of the car while he dad drives and he begins to describe his dream car. He’d pour over design to create the perfect car, with three headlights, four taillights, two giant Cadillac fins, and a Plexiglas dome.  Inside there’s a pool, an instant snack bar, and a robot built into the driver’s seat for when you get tired. But wait, there’s more! With a touch of a button the car becomes a boat, a submarine, and even a plane. The car will be cool and keen, one big fantastic machine. Anyway, if Jack built a car, that’s just what he’d do.

The rhyming Seuss-like text keeps the pace of this imaginative book moving forward. Although there are a few words beyond the scope of a toddler or preschooler, like “zeppelin” and “retractable,” the pictures will hold their interest. The illustrations are inspired by cars and elements of the 50’s and 60’s. Filled with shiny chrome, the color palate is retro as well, all minty greens and pearly pinks. Jack, in his cuffed jeans and sneakers, is an enthusiastic narrator, but the real star of the book is the car. It’s a futuristic, straight out of Popular Science magazine, sparkling and glistening in the sun.

This is a fun addition to a storytime on cars/transportation or inventing. After you read the book, flip back to the page that shows Jack’s room. Can you see items in his room that might have inspired different aspects of the car?  Jack’s car has an instant snack bar with hot dogs and pudding, what kind of foods would your snack bar include?

The book begins with some blueprints of possible dream cars and the last few pages of the book feature drawings of the car that Jack describes in the book. Have the kids draw their own dream car. Ask them to write notes, as Jack does, to describe the features. You can extend the activity by asking them to write a paragraph or two about their car. If you're working with older kids, you can ask them to make their description rhyme like Van Dusen’s text. Check out Grand Island Public School’s webpage for more extension ideas.

Even better, get out those extra cardboard boxes and let the kids build their own dream car to play in. If you have some extra foil they can use that to create chrome accents on the car. Save up plastic lids from juice bottles, jam jars, etc. to be used as buttons.

-Amy

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