Sunday, January 22, 2006

Traction Man is Here!

Grey, Mini. 2005. TRACTION MAN IS HERE! New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375931910 [Suggested Grades K-3]

The fun starts with a letter to Santa on the title page and just doesn’t let up. The young writer requests a new action figure to replace his old one that has been lost in a “terrible parachute accident.” He includes a drawing of Traction Man in several of his available outfits: sub aqua, space, jungle, and deep sea. Readers are already alerted that this inventive young man is going to have some unusual adventures with his toy. He receives a “generic action figure with dazzle-painted battle pants” that immediately comes to life and begins battling evil in the everyday items around the house. In a special mission to search out the “Wreck of the Lost Sieve” and avoid the poisonous dishrag (and do the dishes for his mom), Traction Man is rescued by the heroic Scrubbing Brush and becomes his trusty pet. Traction Man is depicted as a square-jawed, clean-cut hero type. Problems arise when Granny’s Christmas present turns out to be an all-in-one knitted green romper suit and matching bonnet “for jungles.” Traction Man’s expression is perfectly wry as the collage of text says: “It is a perfect fit.” The dismay on their faces says all that need to be said.

The wry British humor of the writing and illustrations will appeal to both children and adults. The tone is slightly formal, but juxtaposed with the silliness of the illustrations it works amazingly well. The author has created a picture book hero both in the child who writes these inventive tales and the action figure who performs the feats of danger in the innocent surroundings of the boy’s home. Be prepared for repeated readings.

Invite children to write and/or illustrate a new adventure for Traction Man. Or if they prefer, let them choose a favorite doll or action figure of their own to write about.

By the same author:

By Cay Geisler

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