Monday 8 October 2018

Elbow Grease

Elbow Grease by John Cena, illustrated by Howard McWilliam (Puffin Books) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9780143794400

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This picture book is ideal for machine-obsessed boys aged 4 to 8 years as its pages are filled with illustrations of highly modified cars and trucks that take part in a demolition derby. Smallest of these vehicles is Elbow Grease who is undeterred by his size and wants to take on his brothers Tank, Flash, Pinball and Crash who are tougher, faster, smarter and braver. What Elbow has in spades is gumption and pure determination. His aim in life is to have his picture displayed on a garage poster as champion in a monster truck grand prix.

The full-page illustrations seem to be computer-generated, making the vehicles and scenery seem life-like with gleaming duco, city lights, and a racing circuit which is quite spectacular as it shows a race in progress. Elbow Grease is taking part in the Grand Prix, but despite being ‘bashed and smashed and eve caught on fire a little bit’, he keeps on trucking. A storm arrives mid-race and poor Elbow is terrified of lightning; he’s cold and tired, too. At the end of the race (and the book), he says (in speech balloons), ‘What do you mean “The End”? … Never Give up! Never quit!... Never say “The End”.’

Lots of fun and action and bright, captivating illustrations, this book is sure to be carried everywhere by small boys wanting their parents to read it again and again.

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