Author/Illustrators: Kate and Jim McMullan
Published: 2002, HarperCollins Children’s Books; New York, New York
Age range: 4-8
While Kid#1 had an easy time picking a favorite picture book for me to review, my son was not so forthcoming. I got a teenage boy “I don’t know.” Looking back to his favorites, many included vehicles, space, or various nonfiction topics. Star Wars came a little later. A picture book I remember reading often is I Stink.
Who am I? I’ve got lights. Ten wide tires. No A.C., not me.
I’ve got doubles: steering wheels, gas pedals, brakes. I am totally dual-op.
Know what I do at night while you’re asleep?
This book is just plain fun to read. The garbage truck explains what it has: hopper, pistons, crusher blade, and the like. It describes what it does: “Eat your trash, that’s what” in great detail with excellent sounds and actions. It gives its recipe for alphabet soup, garbage style. This garbage truck has some serious attitude.
It’s been several years since Kid#2 was small enough to listen to me read I Stink! I’d forgotten how much I liked it. It’s another book that I could easily read again and again.
What makes I Stink! so engaging? First, the short, staccato sentences keep the story fast-paced and action-packed. The voice of the garbage truck comes through as loud and clear as the sounds it makes. In addition, the language is lively, descriptive, and rhythmic. Onomatopoeia is sprinkled liberally throughout the text—squeal, roar, burp, beep, plop! The descriptions are definitely kid-friendly: “Gimme some gas. Rev me to the max. Engine? Roar!” Written another way—the driver gave it some gas and revved the engine—would not have the same zip. The alphabet soup recipe has brilliant gross-out charm—from apple cores to moldy meatballs to zipped-up ziti with zucchini. Plus what kid doesn’t love a stinky noisy garbage truck? It’s got universal appeal that nearly every child can recognize. I like that the text does not stop at trash collection, but also shows the truck dumping its load onto the trash barge and heading back to the garage after a busy night. Another awesome aspect of I Stink! are the illustrations. The garbage truck’s attitude is evident in its grinning grimacing face. These are no touchy-feely, tender drawings. They are bold and brash to match the text. The colors are both muted and bright—no pastels here! The varied fonts, text sizes, and appearance of the words on the page also enhance the story and the illustrations. The pictures do what pictures should: enhance and expand the story.
I Stink! belongs in the library of any child who loves the garbage truck. The colors, words, and overall style will especially appeal to kids who like active books about trucks. It’s a terrific read-aloud book that both kids and parents can appreciate for its exciting language and pictures.