Millions of wheels and almost as many books

My first-grader when he was three, parking cars in the dirt.

Even as a baby, my younger boy was mesmerized by wheels. When my older son was a toddler, he would spend hours parking cars in imaginary parking lots on the carpet. I even think his first word was car. Before he could sit up by himself, we were looking out a window at a busy street, and he said, “Cah!” It’s like my boys were born with a fascination of all things moving–but especially with wheels.

My toddler today, at 21 months. Notice the car in the tractor bucket.

I am thankful for wheels because they keep my children happy. When wheels are involved, for them, anything is possible. They have imagined cars talking to each other the way I used to play with dolls. They drive them into small holes and tight spaces, sometimes only to be found weeks, months or even years later. They load them onto the trailers of other vehicles, load them into the buckets of other vehicles. They run cars through Play-Doh and paint with their wheels. They drive them down carpet roads, crayon roads, dirt roads and sand roads. They shoot them down paper towel tubes, legs and furniture. They tickle others and are tickled by the little wheels driven up and down their arms, backs and legs. They crash them, make them fly and clutch them as they run around or ride in the car. I have used them to help teach counting, and I have an activity up my sleeve to use them to help my toddler learn colors. I even think my toddler’s fascination with the dishwasher has something to do with the little wheels on the bottom of the lower rack.

My first-grader when he was 15 months old.

Wheels captivate my children so much, they can spend a few seconds admiring a shopper’s scooter in the store, a half an hour standing in the parking lot next to a construction site or an hour doing a hundred different things with cars at home. Wheels capture my children’s attention and keep them busy. Really, wheels are a lifesaver for me.

My six-year old’s battle between two car armies this summer.

There are times I wish we didn’t have any around, like when I can’t get the boys to do any of the other activities at an Early Childhood Family Education class or play time because they only want to play at the train table. But most of the time, I am thankful that I can distract the toddler in the doctor’s office by pulling two cars out of the diaper bag or that I can pick a table at a restaurant by the window facing a busy highway to keep the kids happy.


My toddler at one year learning about size.

Even my toddler’s favorite books are vehicle related, although he also likes books about kitties, farm animals and anything with a good rhythm. My older son has evolved somewhat and expanded to mysteries, history, and anything that has a clever or silly twist to it, like Mrs. McNosh and the Great Big Squash by Sarah Weeks or Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy by Jacky Davis and David Soman. But he always comes back to his favorites like The Trucker and others, shown below.

Here are some of our favorite books about wheels (clockwise from top left):

1. The Trucker, by Barbara Samuels

“From the time he was very small … Leo was a trucker. No doubt about it.”

Leo’s mom, trying desperately to help Leo become a well-rounded child, is faced with vehicles at every turn. The two adopt a cat, who, what do you know, is also a trucker at heart. My kids love cats, and of course they see themselves in Leo. We checked it out of the library last year, and it was such a big hit, Santa heard about it and brought my older boy the hardcover version for Christmas.

2. Flashing Fire Engines, by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker

“Big, bold fire engines, waiting day and night, ready for a rescue or a blazing fire to fight.”

In fun, rhyming text, the reader accompanies the fire fighters on a fire call, learning how things work. We received this book free when attending an ECFE event four years ago–the Scholastic books were donated to ECFE by our local Target store. My two boys have read it so much, I had to tape it together last week.

3. Easy Street, by Rita Gray

“Make a street, make a street, workers in a row. Make me a street for things that go.”

With clay and real sand photo illustrations, we follow a construction crew as they make a road from bare gravel to hanging signs. As I read it, it comes out in a little beat, and my toddler bounces up and down to the rhythm. Easy Street, as well as the next book, Otis, and The Little Engine that Could were sent to us through the United Way and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The program sends a book to each enrolled child age 0-5 each month. Yet another thing to be thankful for.

4. Otis, by Loren Long

“The calf bawled for her mother, but when the sleepy sound of a soft putt puff puttedy chuff¬†came from the next stall, the scared little calf stopped bawling and drifted off to sleep.”

A very sweet story about trusted friendships, and we found ourselves walking around the house saying to ourselves, “putt puff puttedy chuff.”

5. My Truck is Stuck, by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk

“Help! Please help! Does anyone know how to make my stuck truck go?”

Combining rhyme, trucks, counting, and a silly subplot about a bunch of bone-stealing creatures that look like beavers, this is my toddler’s most recent favorite. His favorite part is yelling out “fwee!” When counting the third car that tries to help pull out the stuck truck.

6. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

“Construction site, all tucked in tight, The day is done, turn off the light. Great work today! Now … shh … goodnight.”

Another rhyming book, the real draw of this book is thinking of the construction vehicles as living creatures and what they do when their work is done. My toddler likes the crane truck’s teddy bear, and my first-grader likes the snoring of the dump truck.

7. My Wheel Book – On the Road (no author listed)

“Sports cars zoom on the highway.”

This book simply states what each vehicle does next to a photo of it on a white background. The wheels on the book are an obvious draw. This is another book I had to tape together. Purchased in the $1 spot at Target.

8. Digger (no author listed)

This book also just lists the name of the vehicle shown as a photo on white background, but the jobs of the vehicles must spark the imagination, because we “read” this over and over. Again, the wheels are a draw.


9. Curious George and the Dump Truck, by Margret & H.A. Rey

“George was excited. What could be better than a truck full of dirt? George jumped right in the middle of it. Sitting on top of the dirt, George felt the truck bed begin to tilt …

Another new favorite–so much so that my older boy has parts of it memorized and rolls his eyes when the toddler wants “Geo… dump.”

10. Cars and Trucks, pictures by Richard Scarry

First published in 1951, this Little Golden Book features fun things like a coal truck, a full-service filling station, telephone linemen, army officers in a jeep, and a streamlined double-decker bus. Aside from satisfying my boys’ fascination with wheels, it has sparked many a conversation with my six-year old about heating fuel, gas stations, WWII, roles of women (On two separate pages, it features housewives going to the grocery store for food for dinner, and a dad taking care of the baby while a family is on vacation in their “car trailer.”) and how communication has changed away from telephone lines. Fascinating. A garage sale find.

11. The Little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper

The classic tale of the Little Engine that said, “I think I can!” and then did it. Everyone loves a tale of success through determination.

12. Wheels on the Bus, by Raffi

The fun action song turned into a detailed book. We usually read through the book one time to talk about all the people getting on the bus or why the baby on the bus might be crying, then sing through the book, complete with actions. My first-grader still likes this one and uses his little brother as an excuse to read it.

As you can tell, we not only have a million little wheels, we probably have a million pages of books too. Like the mom in The Trucker, I am aiming to have well-rounded little boys, and it’s working, even though it all comes around to things with wheels again eventually.

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