Picture Books for Little Hoons


Being a car guy (or car girl) doesn’t stop when your little one takes his or her first breath. Being a well-rested car guy? Well, that’s something else entirely.

But having kids in your life isn’t the complete life-altering experience that movies and television make it out to be. Sure, you might start taking better care of yourself healthwise, perhaps exercising more and drinking less – or drinking more: people, it’s parenting fluid – but the essential things that are important to you don’t change. Instead, you get to share them with a new, miniature person. One who has lots of questions.

When my daughter was born, I felt my heart grow three sizes in a single day. I held her fragile, warm form close and whispered in her tiny, perfect ear, “Kid, I am going to buy you so many Hot Wheels. Seriously.” But I was also going to do all the other daddy things like changing diapers, and cooking her meals, and chasing her around the playground, and fitting a child seat into a Series II Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead.

I was also going to read to her, and to encourage her to read. I started making a list of books. Here are a few.little-red-racingcarMight as well kick things off with the newest and possibly best book in this list: The Little Red Racing Car. If you haven’t been paying attention, this colourful, accurate picture book had its kickstarter featured everywhere from Road & Track to Petrolicious. As a result, it hit its targets and got published, which is a very good thing indeed.

Unlike many of the other picture books in this list, there aren’t any hippos driving convertible Nascar racers or other fairy-tale nonsense. Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch to think that a barn-find 1950s Maserati could be rebuilt at home without much in the way of specialized help, not to mention that putting your kid in the passenger’s seat of one and driving it on public roads is guaranteed to get you on the cover of Negligent Parenting magazine (I’m a lifetime subscriber). However, it’s also much more realistic than other books, and the art has a feel that pays homage to the great racing posters of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s.


It’s beautiful, as is the simple story. A father and a son restore something broken and neglected, and make something lasting that they can share. That sort of thing doesn’t have to be a metaphor, it’s just an explanation of why we end up loving these machines.


Next up is a book from my own childhood, one that stands outside time and is good enough to give to your theoretical grandkids. Richard Scarry is a damn genius, and his Biggest Word Book Ever is worth a look here too – Mr. Frumble is exactly what Ralph Wiggum would be if you gave him a license and turned him into a pig.

His best car-related book is Cars and Trucks and Things that Go. There’s a speed-crazed Dingo. There’s a rabbit driving an alligator. There’s a pickle-shaped tanker truck.

scarry1Plus you get to look for Goldbug on each page, all the while learning new words and enjoying the brightly animated artwork. A classic.



The Wheels on the Racecar features further antics from anthropomorphic animals; this time, they’re at the wheel of pseudo-Nascar racers and whizzing round the racetrack. Round and round, round and round, round and round.

Do you not like repetition? Don’t have kids. Do you not like repetition? Don’t have kids. Do you not like repetition? Don’t have kids. Do you not like repetition? Don’t have kids. Do you not like repetition? Don’t have kids. Do you not like repetition? Don’t have kids. Also, if you don’t like the question, “But why?”, don’t have kids.

If you do have kids, know that they simply love books like this. It is, of course, a simple variant on the old Wheels-on-the-bus sing-song, but here at least the cars go zoom, and the drivers go pass. The book helpfully illustrates the actions you can both do together, and we all know the tune. Read this book with your kid in public and you’ll look like a complete idiot. Looking like a complete idiot is one of the chief joys of parenting.



At a very early age, your child will likely want to read by themselves, flipping through the pages and pointing at the pictures. A good book for this sort of activity is the very simple My Car, the chief protagonist of which looks a lot like R&T’s executive editor rendered in MS Paint. His name’s Sam too.

The artwork here is very poor. I made that Horton image in MS Paint, and the author of this book is also apparently a fan of the medium. However, the simplicity and bright colours are fascinating to children, and I particularly enjoyed the schematic that showed Sam’s car to be an early adopter of the BMW i3’s “skateboard” chassis construction.


There’s even a bit of a twist at the end, and it’s short enough to be the one-more-book-before-bed.



Learning the ABC’s is, frankly, usually a matter of dull repetition. A is for apple, B is for boat, M is for the 1911 Marmon Wasp. Wait, what?

While the title of this book, The Racecar Alphabet, doesn’t sound particularly exciting, the content actually is. Aside from an entry illustration showing a Jaguar C-Type and a McLaren M23 among other realistic machinery, the artwork is mostly of 1920s racecars and you can practically hear and smell these great beasts. Everybody has moustaches and goggles – expect your kid to ask hipsters if they drive an early Alfa – and the cars lean forward with speed and acceleration. Things progress through history until a modern Ferrari is taking its victory lap.


A lovely-looking book, and helps your kid out with the basics: not just letters and sounds, but an appreciation for historic racers.


Picture 10

If I Built A Car reminds me a bit of Pixar’s animation in its style, and the story does run like an animated short. Essentially, this is a great one for budding car designers, and will get them running to the crayon cupboard to start drawing their own vehicles.

The kid in the story decides Dad’s car is too boring, and comes up with a vehicle that combines all the best bits of 1950s gee-whizz concept cars. It flies, floats, has a robot chauffeur and an automated snack bar. Neat stuff, and sure to get imaginations fizzing.



Danny the Champion of the World is, perhaps, my favourite Roald Dahl book. In fact, it’s practically worth having kids just so you have an excuse to read The Twits, and The BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aloud to someone who wants to hear them. I said this before about Scarry, but Dahl is also a genius, and his books enthrall and delight with effortless flow.

The reason Danny is my favourite is partially the tale, which is simple and hilarious, but also the way the cars in the book fit the characters. The bad guy, for instance, drives a hoity-toity Rolls-Royce (and gets his comeuppance in it), where the eponymous Danny and his father have a tiny Austin Seven. The scene where Danny actually gets to drive the car – well, I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice to say that it’s one of those books you’ll find yourself reading long after junior has dropped off to sleep.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here