Big Truck Little Island

by Chris Van Dusen (Author) Chris Van Dusen (Illustrator)

Big Truck Little Island
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

That big truck is stuck! How will the island residents get where they're going? A tale of community and ingenuity from the celebrated Chris Van Dusen, inspired by a true story.

When a big truck and its big load get stuck on a narrow road, traffic on the little island comes to a halt. Some cars need to go south and some have to travel north. How will Meg get to her swim meet? What about Barry's ballet class? Luckily, the kids come up with an ingenious solution: why not just swap cars? Inspired by an incident that happened on Vinalhaven, Maine, Chris Van Dusen tells a fun tale of resourcefulness and community through clever, rhyming wordplay and whimsical illustrations, sprinkled with plenty of cars and trucks for transportation-loving readers.


Spinning a tale based on a real incident that occurred on the island town of Vinalhaven in Maine, Van Dusen portrays what happens when a really big flatbed truck carrying a mysterious, covered load across a small island gets stuck on a tight curve and blocks traffic in both directions. . . . A salutary case study in how trust and cooperation can turn a big problem into no problem.

Horn Book Magazine

Starred Review
Van Dusen is in full command of his rhyming text, using rhythm and sound to set the pace and convey mood. His expressive characters add humor to the situation.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

In his signature art style, Van Dusen (the Mercy Watson series) opens with an expansive bird's-eye spread of a tugboat headed across a northerly bay on "one bright summer day." Readers can almost taste the salt air as the tug hauls a barge, on which sits a semi with an "extra large" covered load, to the titular island. Once on land, the driver "came to a switchback, terribly tight, / then felt the whole payload shift off to his right," blocking the island's single road and necessitating a rescue. But instead of focusing on extracting the jackknifed truck, Van Dusen turns his attention to the island's residents: four children of various skin tones stuck in vehicles on either side of the semi. Blocked from getting to their respective outings, and noting that the adults seem more frustrated than action-oriented, the kids briskly confer, and then "quickly decided, as friends, what to do": "Listen," one says, "let's all exchange cars./ We'll borrow yours, and then you borrow ours." The crisply rhyming, economic text underscores both the protagonists' cut-to-the-chase ingenuity and the story's deftly delivered core message: when community and trust run deep, life's inevitable obstacles are a lot easier to work around. An author's note details the story's origins on Vinalhaven, Maine. Ages 3-7. (May)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.


An excellent lesson in kindness and problem-solving. . . Van Dusen's sun-drenched images of the truck making its way across the reach are stunning, as are the overhead views of the town, with its postcard-perfect farmhouses and tree-lined cliffs. It makes Maine a place readers will want to visit, just not in a truck that might struggle on narrow curves. . . A perfect little slice of life with a unique take on kindness and compromise.

Review quotes

The story, inspired by an actual mishap on Maine's Vinalhaven island, rollicks along in rhymed verse that makes the most of the transportation theme. . . Gouache paintings maintain a lighthearted perspective on the islanders' troubles, while accurately conveying the challenge of coaxing a massive rig along slippery switchbacks. This study in quick-thinking and neighborliness is bound to earn demands to read it again.

—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 

Based on true events, the author creates a picture of a small town that supports and trusts one another. . . A combination of bird's-eye and close-up illustrations depict the expressions of the people and provide glimpses of the local island life. The rhyming and rhythmic text will engage readers and make them excited to see what happens next.
—School Library Connection

In Chris Van Dusen's distinctive illustrations, everything has a smooth, sugar-glazed look, as if his pictures were made of frosted cookies that you could eat. . . . The story Mr. Van Dusen shows and tells in Big Truck, Little Island is perhaps his sweetest yet. . . . The solution has a charming element of cut-the-Gordian-knot surprise in this beautifully well-balanced tale for readers ages 4-8.
—The Wall Street Journal

Chris Van Dusen
Chris Van Dusen is the author and illustrator of several highly acclaimed picture books, including the hugely popular Mercy Watson series. His book, If I Built a Car won the 2006 E.B. White Read-Aloud Award presented by The Association of Bookesellers for Children. He and his family live in Camden, Maine.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
May 20, 2022

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