The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Image
Big Picture Image
Cover illustration
See permission.
The Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books

The Big Picture, a regular Bulletin feature both on-line and off, is an in-depth look at selected new titles and trends. See the archive for selections from previous months.

McMullan, Kate I Stink!; illus. by Jim McMullan.
Cotler/HarperCollins, 2002 34p
Library ed. ISBN 0-06-029849-9 $15.89
Trade ed. ISBN 0-06-029848-0 $15.95
3-7 yrs

Don’t try any sweet euphemisms on this guy—no “department of sanitation vehicle” or “refuse transport conveyance” for him. Our redolent narrator’s a hard-workin’ garbage truck, plain and simple, and he’s dang proud of it. Thirty-two pages of nonstop attitude demonstrate that he’s got one of the most important jobs in town: “Go on, hold your nose, but think about it—WITHOUT ME? You’re on Mount Trash-o-rama, baby.”

Kids who delightedly followed the rounds of Zimmerman’s trash collector in Trashy Town (BCCB 5/99) ascend here from the garbage can to the dumpster league. McMullan’s Garbage Truck is an exercise in voracious power (“ten WIDE tires,” “totally DUAL OP,” “Rev me to the MAX”), roaming the night streets of a big city with nothing but breakfast on his mind: “Feed me! Straight into my HOPPER! Nice toss, guys!” He pauses long enough between courses to expel a satisfied, kid-pleasing, double-spread full-bleed “BURRRP!” that leaves room for another load of alphabetized urban jetsam: “ . . . Moldy meatballs, Nasty neckties, Orange peels, Puppy poo, Quail bones, too. . . .” With a full belly, he’s off to the garbage barge, then home for a hose down, a fill-up, and some well earned Zzzz’s: “See you guys tomorrow night.”

Kate McMullan creates an automotive beast whose narrative style reeks of personality, and Jim McMullan’s renderings are a perfect match, coaxing steely features into flexible, expressive shapes. Garbage Truck’s windshield eyes grimace with determination and flicker with mischief, while his front bumper stretches from time to time into a devilish grin. Muscular sweeps of pitch-black outlining emphasize his sinuous, brawny grace. He plows through the textured, jewel-toned night bathed in color—explosive bursts of searing yellow/orange headlights, a purple cloud of odiferous fume, a golden, almost beatific halo that seems to bless his civic-minded efforts.

While truck lovers will swarm to this like flies to a you-know-what, there are bound to be plenty of primary teachers prowling for a fresh twist on the venerable community helpers unit, and for them the McMullans thoughtfully leave ajar a couple of doors leading to deeper discussion and exploration. Having polished off his alphabetical petit déjeuner, Garbage Truck poses beside a green recycling can. Does his dialogue bubble reading “Thank you very much” refer to his ample meal, or perhaps to readers’ courtesy in sorting waste properly and lightening his load? Likewise, the garbage barge floats problematically at the dock; Garbage Truck’s job is done for the day, but the refuse lingers, prompting the questions, “Where will it go? What will happen when it gets there?” Once the revving and roaring subsides, kids can consider what they might do to put Garbage Truck on a much-needed diet.

Elizabeth Bush, Reviewer

Big Picture Image
Cover illustration by Jim McMullan from I Stink! ©2002. Used by permission of Cotler/HarperCollins Publishers.

[Back to the Bulletin Homepage] [Back to the Bulletin Archives]

This page was last updated on June 1, 2002.