Shannon McNeill (illustrator of Wild and Wooly) flips a deceptively simple premise into a rollicking romp in her catchily phrased, action-packed first authored and illustrated picture book, Wheels No Wheels.
"A tractor has wheels," the narrator informs readers on the first page, adding, "A llama has no wheels," on the facing page. Tractor and Llama both seem ordinary, as do the bicycle (wheels), Cat (no wheels), the skateboard (wheels), and Turtle (no wheels). When the farm animals feel inspired to take their wheeled counterparts for a spin, they don't let the brown-skinned, rosy-cheeked Farmer stand in their way. "Vrooming, zooming, never stopping," they careen downhill into the city in wild smears of vivid color that end in a heap of wreckage and a matter-of-fact update: "Nobody has wheels." Luckily, the comically expressionless Chicken rolls to the rescue in a sky-blue farm truck with room for all, and soon "everyone has wheels!"
McNeill plays with different meanings of the phrase "has wheels" with funny, absurdist results. Her gouache, graphite powder and cut-paper illustrations have a gentle translucence, the characters a winsome, trustworthy quality. The overall air of innocence contrasts hilariously with the animals' naughty actions, giving one the sense that the author never intended to write a book at all, but the animals seized control. Young children often have a fascination with things that go, and the simple text and silly plot should hit the sweet spot with toddlers and younger preschoolers. Simply put, this book has wheels. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth experience manager, Dayton Metro Library