I Review Children's Books: The Little Blue Truck
Little Blue Truck is a 2008 morality tale that, like, many morality tales, gets a bit muddy if you think about it too hard. Alice Schertle seems to have intended a story about the value of social connections with a side helping of animal noises. The plot is not actually driven by the character development of the eponymous Little Blue Truck--a friendly chap who honks his horn at the animals he sees as he drives along--but rather on that of an entitled dump truck who passes (definitely illegally!) on the right, gets stuck in the mud, and needs the help of not just the Little Blue Truck, but also the help of Little Blue’s extended social network in order to escape the mud and continue on his way.
The Dump pronounces the moral of the story:
You helped me
And they helped you.
Now I see
a lot depends
on a helping hand
from a few good friends!
But it’s hard to say how, exactly, Dump came to this conclusion, or what changes he intends to implement in his life going forwards. Immediately after this pronouncement he heads for the horizon without so much as an offer to treat everyone to a snack. Really, if not for the demands of the rhyme scheme he might just as easily have said “now I see that often a stranger will help you even if you’ve gone out of your way to not only be rude to them, but actually placed them in danger with your reckless driving. Laters!” It’s not Dump who proffers a truck ride as a “thank-you” to the animals who come to his aid; he still has the “big important things to do” that had him in such a hurry in the first place. Little Blue is left to balance and preserve the social connections that the Dump just benefited from.
Given all this, probably the most surprising element of the book is that Little Blue is gendered masculine (“Little Blue pushed with all his might”), since he does the sort of emotional labor more typically expected of women. Certainly the narrative does nothing to undermine the assumption that trucks with “important” things to do should be helped by small, friendly trucks without the expectation of any compensation or reward--much less to reveal the reality that maintaining friendships with a wide variety of barnyard animals--learning enough of their distinct languages to at least understand them; organizing activities that are amenable to all parties and their various dietary restrictions; providing transportation; cleaning up after them--is, in fact, work, and is not, in fact, always it’s own reward. What Schertle gets right about emotional labor, if only by implication, is that it almost always requires dealing with a certain amount of horse crap.
Representation: There are no humans in the book; everyone except the Chicken (who has a chick) and the cow (who doesn’t have any gendered pronouns, but does have udders) is gendered male. Everyone is able-bodied.
Should I buy it: Of course you should, your child will love all the animal sounds.
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