Smiling confidently, blocky trucks in bright colors cruise the streets of a city. The vertical lines of office buildings create a maze for these vehicles: a bucket truck fixing a power line, a firetruck quenching a blaze, a tow truck rescuing a yellow unsmiling bus. And then there is the unassuming, neutral-colored, bespectacled and slightly rounded garbage truck: “He just collects the trash.” But when snow begins to fall one evening, wrapping the city in a blizzard, the other working trucks are stopped in their tracks. “Just then, the garbage truck sneaks into a garage and becomes . . .
SUPERTRUCK!” A red snowplow affixed to his front, Supertruck digs out the city before returning to his usual work. Author and illustrator Stephen Savage gets the rhythm and drama of the story exactly right: The snow is deep but not scary, the trucks seem concerned about their plight but not frightened, and Supertruck is every small child who dreams of being a hero. The snow will melt eventually, but even in the warmth of spring and summer, small children will want to hear again about the delightful and sweetly heroic Supertruck.
Opening with a foreword by style guru Tim Gunn, this lavishly illustrated book presents history as a long and winding runway of fashion. In its brightly adorned pages, readers can gaze and gawk at the strange outfits humans have dreamed up since “casting off their smelly bear-skins” 10,000 years ago. Author Sarah Albee not only discusses the materials, colors and designs of the past, but also shows how people have suffered from wearing and making some of these garments. With a light hand but vivid details, Albee makes clear that fashion’s victims are legion, from the slaves who labored on cotton plantations and the workers in sweatshops the world over, to tightly corseted women and girls whose feet were bound for years at a time. The lively book covers an impressive variety of topics and themes, including battle garb, functional clothing and passing fads, including 14th-century cone-shaped headdresses and early-20th-
century hobble skirts. Such examples should help alert young readers to think skeptically about the vagaries of fashion trends.
American literature is full of male travelers, from the footloose poet of Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” to the headlong Beats of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” With “Mosquitoland,” a smart, brash 16-year-old named Mary Iris Malone (Mim) joins their ranks. Mim, who is half-blind, starts her 947-mile journey in Jackson, Miss., and wends her way to Cleveland by Greyhound bus, Subaru, on foot and in a truck called Uncle Phil. Her mission: to find her mother, who has suddenly stopped communicating with her. The girl’s journey connects her with some curious characters, including an old lady with a locked box and a photographer in search of his foster sister. Layered into this first-person narrative are Mim’s memories of her complex mother and the therapist who prescribed pills for a psychosis that Mim may not have. Readers will take this straight-talking “Mistress of Moxie” to their hearts as she deals with all the insights, dirt and danger along the way. David Arnold combines brio with compassion in this captivating first novel, which holds surprises, big and small, right to the end. Welcome to the road too little traveled by females in realistic YA fiction. It’s illuminating to view this swathe of the United States through Mim’s one good eye.
WHY’D THEY WEAR THAT?
Fashion as the Mirror of History
By Sarah Albee
National Geographic, $19.99,
Age 10 and up
Roaring Brook, $12.99,