Children's book review by Steve Barancik
I have a confession. I didn't know what to do with G.I. Joe.
I wasn't much better with my Corgi Cars. These toys didn't seem to move very well. They didn't have instructions.
Of course, the problem wasn't my toys. The problem was my stunted imagination and my underdeveloped ability to entertain myself.
The little boy in Mini Grey's Traction Man Is Here has no such problems. Review continues.
The boy could be any boy, and he's barely a bit player in the story. Unless I missed something, Grey doesn't even give him a name. She doesn't need to.
All you need to know about him is that he wanted this particular action figure. He knows what to do with an action figure: put him into action! Grey establishes this on the title page with the boy's letter to Santa.
He explains that the original T-Man perished in a "terrible parachute accident." The little boy already has plans for his replacement, and they clearly don't involve playing shuffleboard in a retirement community.
The gist of this Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner is that there's no boring situation or stretch of time that can't be overcome with the help of an action figure and an active imagination. Cleaning the dishes becomes a search for a sunken shipwreck suddenly complicated by the attack of the poisonous dishcloth.
(You'll be relieved to know that Traction Man is rescued by a "brave little scrubbing brush.")
I wonder how differently my own life might have turned out if my G.I. Joe had come along with this book!
Traction Man continues with important work in the garden, the bathtub and the long car ride to Granny's. In fact, it's Granny herself who presents the T-Man with his most dire predicament...
Dorky gift clothes. What little boy couldn't relate??? Fortunately, an aerial rescue of some dropped silverware requires that the dorky gift clothes be unraveled and used as rope.
Mini Grey's text is filled with this kind of magic, and her illustrations are a perfect match. You might sense a little of Disney's Toy Story in both.
The book is a joy, and kudos to Mini Grey for such a great job of conjuring up a boy's adventure-oriented mindset.
I have a recommendation. Purchase Traction Man is Here for the little boy in your life in combination with the action figure of your choice.
Let's face it: the imagination thing sometimes comes a little less naturally to boys. Gifting an action figure along with Traction Man is like providing a "How To" on entertaining oneself.
Webmaster's note: Looking for clever ways to urge your child to entertain himself? Check out the downloadable book, How Boberto Learned to Like Being by Himself Sometimes.
Read more of Steve's reviews.
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