The Runaway No-Wheeler by Peter Stein,  illustrated by Bob Staake

    The Runaway No-Wheeler by Peter Stein,  illustrated by Bob Staake, Viking (an imprint of Penguin Random House), 9780593114209, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  I always appreciate attempts by authors to work math concepts into stories. In this book, Tony, a rugged 18-wheeler who’s always on time, finds it challenging to complete his delivery, as his tires blow out one-by-one. A skid on slime takes out the first wheel, bumpy roads take out two more, and Tony loses four when he hits the brakes to avoid Mama Duck and her babies. On it goes until there’s none left, but Tony makes it to the loading dock to drop off his load of…tires! The whole rollicking tale is told mostly in rhyming couplets with a lot of variation in the action words, which pop off the page in bold, colorful, san serif fonts. The illustrations look digital, although the credits indicate there was some pen, ink and crayon work involved. All the people and animals resemble slightly elongated figures from a Playmobile set; there’s also some monsters and a crew of aliens. It’s like a super crazy, slightly tongue-in-cheek visit to an updated Busy Busy World. Handsome endpapers include colorful traffic signs.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I liked the idea of counting down but thought the concept was stronger than the book. The rhyming text was strained, which made it hard to focus on how many tires poor Tony had left. Also, it would have been helpful if the numbers appeared on each page as an equation as the action built. That way the adult reader could show how Tony’s tale of woe was actually a story problem. As counting down is an early math learning goal, I thought a simpler visual set-up would have been more appropriate. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  A better example of making an exciting and memorable book out of a concept is Alphabet Rescue by Audrey Wood. Still, this may be a good option for classroom teachers in kindergarten to grade 1 looking for subtraction stories. 

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: February 8, 2021

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