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. Volume VIII Number 5 . . . . November 2, 2001
The cause of the children's excitement in Nancy Hundal's picture book, Number 21, is a brand new truck, brought home by Nancy's dad on a hot summer day. The big, bright red vehicle is quite beautiful in the eyes of the three children, Laurie, Duncan and Nancy. After clambering up into the cab and exploring the wonders of Number 21, the three kids are thrilled to discover that their father has turned the truck's dump box into a swimming pool. The children have a wonderful time in their version of the old swimming hole: "With boosts, we all manage to get into the box. The water is cold--colder than the day is hot. It gives my feet a headache, but that doesn't matter."
Hundal's text, written in the first person present tense, has a poetic element to it. Her recently published picture book, Prairie Summer, (1999), also illustrated by Brian Deines, displays a talent for infusing prose with poetic language. In Number 21, the author uses unexpected verbs to enliven the story-telling. The engine of the new truck "sighs" off, the clothesline begins to "snake" into the porch," the sun "wobbles" behind the garage, and Dad "rumbles" the truck out into the lane. Occasionally a word or phrase in the 10 year-old narrator's voice seems inauthentic, as in "I know the delight of hearing a rumbling roaring engine while standing on the street..." but, on the whole, Hundal's simple tale gives the reader a vivid picture of the appeal that trucks have from a child's point of view. Brian Deines' paintings capture the series of snapshots which make up the text perfectly. He is particularly successful at portraying contrasts such as the huge truck dwarfing its admirers or the oppressive heat of summer with the icy chill of the improvised swimming pool.
Not very many picture books give a central role to a truck. Number 21 is likely to have a special appeal to boys, and, although the story line is very slight, it should prove a satisfactory read-aloud for the primary grades.
Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian living in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.