Top 100 Picture Books #93: Traction Man is Here! by Mini Grey
Finally there was a REAL BOY BOOK. Hilarious and all the boys raved. – Cheryl Phillips
What a great boy book for boys and girls. In a world where my students are expected to write small moments and personal narrative stories ad nauseum, this is a fantastic mentor text on how to let your imagination run wild. It shows the make-believe world that kids often live in and tells them that it is okay to dwell there. As I wish I could tell the authors of all of these new writing curriculums sometimes, writing imaginative fiction works too. – Amy Miele
One of the funniest picture books around with unique and intriguing artwork that captures the feel of a child playing with his favorite toy perfectly. This is a story that never gets old, no matter how many times you read it. – Owen Gray
I want to go out on a limb here and say that when it comes to picture books about action figures, this book beats ‘em all. Admittedly I can’t think of any other books that involve action figures to this extent . . . but the point remains.
My description of the plot from my Amazon review put it thusly: “A boy writes a note to Santa requesting another Traction Man since his old one was involved in what is simply referred to as, ‘the Terrible Parachute Accident’. Santa may not be aware of the boy’s request, but his parents are certainly on the ball because Christmas Day brings a brand new bright and shiny Traction Man (complete with Dazzle-Painted Battler Pants). Thus begin our hero’s adventures. Each time he appears, his new outfit is lovingly described (as in the sentence, ‘Traction Man is crawling through the overgrown shrubbery near the Pond, wearing Jungle Pants, Camouflage Vest and Sweaty Bandanna’). This is all well and good up until the moment the family goes to knit-crazy Granny’s. Traction Man receives an all-in-one knitted green romper suit and matches bonnet. It’s adorable and completely inappropriate for his line of work. Fortunately, Traction Man’s quick thinking sidekick Scrubbing Brush finds a way to solve the romper problem and save some spoons in need.”
The funny thing about Traction Man is partly that some Americans don’t get the inherent joke of the name. In Britain there is a character called “Action Man”. He’s sort of a G.I. Joe type guy. Ah well. The nice thing is that there have been sequels to this book since it appeared on our last poll at #63. If you haven’t read Traction Man Meets Turbodog or Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey, get thee to a library!
Said School Library Journal: “Grey has a way of exactly catching the nuances of a child’s ability to turn even the most common object into a friend or looming foe in the never-ending battle between good and evil. This fresh, funny hero and Grey’s celebration of a child’s imagination definitely have traction.”
Booklist said: “Setting up the child as the creator of Traction Man’s secondary world and dramatizing his narrative play, Grey portrays with precision and wit the sort of inventive thinking that toys can inspire in children.”
And Kirkus concluded with: “An absolutely, hilariously, dead-on perfect celebration of the relationship between child and toy.”
And I don’t know how they did it, but full credit to The Bush School for actually knitting a green jumpsuit for a very testy action hero:
He does NOT look happy about it.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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