Sunday, September 9, 2012


By Kate & Jim McMullan

(Joanna Cotler Books, 2006)

I’ve seen it many times.  A boy doesn’t want to look at a book…there’s too much playing to be had.  But then, out comes a book with a race car or construction machinery, someone starts to read and the boy is enthralled.  No doubt, that will occur in many schools and homes as teachers and parents introduce young boys to I’m Dirty.  The picture of a smiling backhoe will lure the boy into the book, but the words will keep him there ‘til the end.  He’ll be hooked from the first page:

Who’s got a BOOM, a dipper stick, and a BUCKET with a row of chompers?  ME!  And that’s just my REAR end.

Honestly, that kind of opening would have been lost on me, but I could get lost in animal books while the Smash Up boys delight in dirt.  The backhoe is the main character of this book, but a mucky muck boy could easily place himself in the vehicle’s wheels. 

The backhoe is tasked with cleaning up an illegal dumping ground and Kate and Jim McMullan create a four-page reverse counting book in the middle of this picture book, with the rig clearing 10 torn-up truck tires…down to 4 cat-clawed couches…and finally 1 wonky washing machine.  For me, it’s a sad statement about how we view so much as being so easily disposable, but little boys will simply be fascinated in imagining the backhoe do its work.

A stump removal is the next focus for the backhoe and the reader is challenged with making realistic machine noises for “Mmmmmmmmmmpuh!” and “TIM-BERRRRRRRRRR!”  After a solid day’s work, the backhoe has a mud bath, emerging plenty dirty.  Good luck convincing little boys to take a bath after finishing the book.  I imagine many listeners will think, If the backhoe can be happy in the dirt, why can’t I? 

I’m just here to point out a few good books.  Sorry, but I’ll leave the rest of the parenting issues to you.

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