Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
By Sophie Powell
The poem Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc has always been one of my favorites, and I learned it by heart as a child for a poem-speaking competition; Tarantella’s masterful rhyme and rhythm, evocative of a flamenco beat, are infectious and it has marvelous mystery and atmosphere.
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (a picture book for preschoolers) is a different genre of literature to Tarantella, nevertheless its author Sherri Duskey Rinker has the same enchanting gift with rhyme and rhythm that I have not experienced since Tarantella. Reaching #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for children’s picture books in 2012 (and it remains now at #2), Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site describes the hardworking machinery tucking in for the night. With delightful personification, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer and Excavator finish their work and settle in for the night – so they’ll be ready for another day’s “rough-and-tough construction play!”
And this is not only a book for truck-lovers. When my 11-month-old son received this book as a gift, I confess I was not particularly excited: my son had not yet developed an interest in trucks, and I as the “speaker-reader” selfishly prefer to read things to him that I find fun or interesting also (until recently, not trucks). However, I tried it out and was swept up within the first two pages – through this book, trucks have taken on whole new dimensions for me! Not only is the language incredible, but the pictures are terrific: best-selling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld works with rich, deep colors and his unique illustrations are full of fabulous whimsy and playfulness. Opening the pages invites you into a gorgeous wonderland that will not disappoint.
So too Rinker’s second picture book for children, Steam Train, Dream Train (also beautifully illustrated by Lichtenheld) is equally imaginative and alluring. It narrates the fantasy of an animal crew loading a night-time “dream train” with ice-cream, paints, race cars and balls – even dinosaurs and a caboose hitch a lift. This book is a little more sophisticated in its technical train language (I found myself learning some new vocabulary), but don’t let that put you off – these technical words are bolded within the familiar language and you can learn with your child too.
If you need a change from Goodnight Moon, grab either of these two books for magical bedtime reading. I also love the story behind the publication of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site: Rinker was unknown on the book scene before she skyrocketed to best-selling author. The mother of two boys, she wrote Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site in stolen moments during her workday as a graphic designer and when her kids had gone to sleep. She sent her manuscript unsolicited to Chronicle Books who picked it up three months later… Yes, it really does happen! Happy New Year!
Sophie Powell grew up in London and on a sheep farm in Wales. She is the author of the novel The Mushroom Man (Putnam Penguin) which received glowing reviews, including one from the New York Times Book Review, and which has been translated into several languages. She has also published short stories, including one in a collection selected by Zadie Smith. With a BA in Classics from Cambridge University and an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, she is especially fond of writing that involves myth, magic and fantasy. She has taught Creative Writing at Boston College, New York University, George Washington University and on seminars abroad, as well as in prisons and libraries. For more about Sophie, visit www.meetsophiepowell.com.See other articles by Sophie Powell