Top critical review
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Not just for boys!!!!
on January 24, 2012
We love this book in our house. Currently, it is the very favorite among my three year old daughter's bedtime books. It features a good amount of predictability in the text built in- which is nice for preschoolers who like to chime in "Shhh...Goodnight, Crane Truck, goodnight." etc etc. My daughter can pretty much recite the whole book, something she takes great delight in. The drawings are also charming, especially details that are not in the text - the crane truck holds a teddy bear, for example. I would gladly give this book 5 stars. Except.
Here's my only problem with this book: it's not just for boys. I feel pretty strongly about this- hence the use of multiple exclamation marks in the title of my review. I mentioned above I have a daughter. She's three. She loves construction vehicles, adores watching them work in real life, and likes to read about them too. No one ever told her that construction is just for boys. Nor do I believe that anyone *should* tell her this! And so my husband and I were both quite disappointed that every single one of the construction vehicles in this book - a crane truck, a dump truck, a cement mixer, an excavator, and a bulldozer - is gendered as male. There seems no logical reason for this, other than it is widely believed that only boys like construction stuff and that the audience for this book is therefore only boys and boys can only relate to boy characters. Seems to me there is a failure at all these steps - some girls (and some boys!) like construction trucks, the audience for this book is not limited therefore to boys, and moreover, boys can relate to girl characters just as easily as anyone else, if they are allowed and encouraged to do so. I believe that including gendered girl characters in amongst the construction vehicles in this book would have done so much- for both girl and boy "readers" - it would teach that boys and girls can be rough and tough and work hard. Surely that's a lesson most of us can get behind? If we, as a society, continue to want more equality for men and women in all arenas, we have to teach both boys and girls that they can be equal (different, yes, but that they deserve equal treatment and to be interested in whatever it is they want to be interested in despite cultural connotations of boy and girl things). I suppose if you don't agree with that, this criticism won't be a problem for you.
As for our family, we continue to read the book. But after reading it the first time and discovering the lack of female characters, I sat down with our daughter and asked her which of the vehicles were boys and which were girls. She decided that the excavator and the bulldozer are girls, the others boys. So now we switch the genders for those vehicles as we read along. But honestly? There are a lot of pronouns in the text and so it takes a fair amount of work. Which, frankly, is annoying and reminds me each time I read it how unfair it is that we have to do so. My daughter won't be taking away the message from this book that construction vehicles and books about them are just for boys. But only a fair amount a work from her parents prevents this message.