Beloved Australian author and illustrator Graeme Base of Animalia
, and Eleventh Hour
fame tries his hand at writing something longer--"a novel in four bites"--but with mixed results.
Set in the imaginary outback world of the TruckDog (a wild evolutionary hybrid that's either "an animal with an engine" or "a car with floppy ears and a wet nose"), Base's story starts out promisingly weird, but then promptly chases its tail in overcomplicated exposition and character development. Kids will probably take to the notion of a fuel-tanker dachshund or a drag-racer greyhound initially (they'll certainly pore over the 16 full-color plates illustrating various TruckDog "breeds"), but that attention will likely fade one-hundred pages into the convoluted and prosaic story about a town that needs to focus its bored, boisterous youth to fight off a gang of bandits.
Kids will likely love TruckDogs's rough-and-tumble descriptions, "Behind them stood a huge, snorting beast, solid muscle and steel, cruelly curved horns mounted above massive bony fenders: the TruckRam from hell." However, don't be surprised if disinterested young readers go tearing off mid-story to concoct TruckDog dramas of their own. (Ages 9 to 12) --Paul Hughes
From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8--Base moves into novels, leaving behind the richly illustrated and rhyming texts for which he is known, such as Animalia
(1987) and Sign of the Seahorse
(1992, both Abrams). Here, readers are treated every few pages to his imaginative and detailed color drawings of Australian outback creatures that are blends of animals and motorized vehicles, such as TruckSheep, TruckRoos, TruckBugs, and more. TruckDogs are the main characters in this story of a town that must overcome its generation gap to survive. The two generations are brought together by Rex, a wise drifter/mechanic who is a mixture of red setter and tractor. He helps the disapproving elders see that they cannot save their town from the lawless RottWheeler gang alone. And he helps the town's "Mongrel Pack" of youth (ages 11 to 14) to see that they can harness their energy and individual talents in positive ways. It's a great message, delivered in a captivating manner, with just two bumps in the road. First, reluctant or younger readers who are pulled in by the drawings, the dogs, and the cars might get bogged down in 50-page chapters, needing smaller, more manageable bites. The second hurdle is the Australian vocabulary, not all of which can be deduced from context, and some such words are important to understanding the story. Readers who can hang on during the bumps should enjoy the ride.--Laurie von Mehren, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Parma, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.