Cars, cars, cars…
“Why are car books for small children so lacking in detail?”
This question, asked by a mum of a four year old caught my eye on the Book Doctor series on The Guardian Children’s Books site recently. It’s something we’ve been wondering a little bit as well recently. Milo is now 3 1/2 and he is completely obsessed with cars (and burglar alarms!), but mostly cars. All the cars that he sees in his life outdoors. Not our car as we don’t drive or own one, but those on the road, those parked by the pavement, those in garages, his granddad’s car.
Before he could talk, he would point at these funny moving shapes from his buggy and demand in his language at the time, wanting to know what they were. And I simplified of course, “van, car, truck, lorry (“lobba” – one of Milo’s first words)” And then, as he’s grown, “car, car transporter lorry, delivery van, police car, ambulance.” And, just before he turned three, he started telling me, “Mercedes, Lexus, Vauxhall, BMW, BMW Z4, Hyundai, Volvo (like his Granddad’s car), Ford, Toyota, “Rowdy” Audi.” You get the picture. And if you can’t quite grasp how obsessed he is then let him show you:
Julia mentions in her article that the reason that there’s no technical detail in images of cars, lorries, fire engines is that wherever picture books are generated, they are global products and so anything typically English would get replaced in artwork to maximise on foreign sales.
Hmmm… but aren’t a lot of the cars that Milo mentioned in his little video, global companies? Ford is British yes, but Toyota, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Honda?
So we’d love a few more details and distinguishing feature on the cars in the books that Milo engages with. Some car badges, a twin exhaust pipe perhaps, spoilers, the correct shapes of cars, cars that don’t necessarily have eyes, noses, faces (though he does like those too) but technical details, the kind that he sees in his day-to-day life and I imagine other children in other countries also see in their day-to-day lives.
We do have this fabulous book called Things That Go published by DK which Milo loves. The pictures inside are not illustrated but stock photos. Unfortunately, despite DK being based here in the UK the emergency service vehicles in it are American and Milo doesn’t recognise them and while I do understand Julia’s point that seeing cars from other countries and cultures are a great insight into new places, I do think that for a child at the age of three, the idea of “country” itself is somewhat abstract unless they’ve maybe done a lot of flying? Milo hasn’t been out of his country yet.
It would be great to have a fabulously technical and most importantly, recognisable car book to share with Milo. Something along the lines of Richard Scarry’s titles (as Julia mentions in her article) but with some UK cars. I wonder who would be good illustrator for this project? Any thoughts?