The story opens with young Jack sitting in the back seat of his father’s station wagon. Jack makes it clear that he is underwhelmed by his father’ s vehicle: “This car is OK. This car is not bad. But it’s just a car. Nothing great. Nothing grand. It’s nothing at all like the car I have planned.” Jack then begins to describe in detail the features of said planned car: the exterior is made of a polymer gel so that the car can’t be dented in a collision; there are fender skirts, retractable wings, giant fins like the Cadillacs of old. This car is a kid’s dream, heck it’s my dream. It has a fireplace, fish tank, pool and an instant snack bar.
And that’s not all. It floats; it dives under water by pushing a “submerge” button; it flies. The best feature is a robot chauffeur for when you become too exhausted to drive.
If I Built a Car is incredibly fun and engaging. I purchased it over 2 years ago for my boys who were then 4 and 2 and it still remains in their top 10 list of favorite books and read at least once a week. The story is told in rhyme which makes it quite enjoyable to read aloud. The illustrations are vivid and cartoon like straight from the 1950’s. Van Dusen put an astounding amount of detail in this book. The front end papers indicate some of the early design ideas for the car that were rejected by Jack. The back end papers show the blueprint for the final car. Kids will pour over the illustrations because there is so much to uncover. Pay special attention to the page of Jack in his room and you will discover the inspirations for some of his ideas. This book will unleash your child’s imagination, especially if after a reading you pose the question, "so what kind of car would you build?" Chris Van Dusen is a very talented author and illustrator and we own all of his books. I will showcase more of his titles in the future because they are all thoroughly enjoyed in our home.