Under the Hood by C. Merlin
Merlin,Christophe. Under the Hood. Sommerville, MA.: Candlewick Press, 2011. Print.
Interactive books are expensive to make and there are always compromises. In this case the publishers have reduced some cost by making the front cover the title page and placing the publication information on the back cover. Strangely, the author’s given name is not printed on the book at all.
Under the Hood has many flaps that children can lift to see what is underneath. Sometimes lifting a flap reveals another flap. The story is about Mr. Bear’s car and garage. When you open the book, you see the garage, with large wooden doors. Open the flaps that are the double doors, and you see a tarped car. When you lift the tarp, you see the car. The text asks, “Is there anyone under the tarp?” Open the car door flap and look into the car and see the word, “No” written on the inside of the door.
This fun book also includes a large two-page fold out that allows you see the car up on a hoist, and has a pull-tab car that lets you race against an elephant on a motorcycle. Many of the flaps reveal the mundane; bolts in a box or tools in a toolbox. However, some hide visual surprises. When you lift the armoured vehicle flap, you see gangsters who have stolen the truck and tied up the driver. A tiny two-seater car folds out to be a dragster that has side-pipes with flames coming out of them. In the last scene, where the text asks, “where is Mouse?”, lifting the hood on the tow-truck reveals Mouse, still in his mechanic’s coveralls, curled up with a pillow.
The text is very simple, aimed at age three and up. The vehicles are a late 1940’s or early 1950’s models. The images are all solid blocks of colour outlined with heavy black outlines. The colours are muted and the prints are made to look like badly printed woodcuts or block prints, giving the book the look of a comic with a “vintage” feel.
This will be a book that is “loved to death”. Even though the book is a reinforced trade edition, printed on fairly heavy card stock, children will want to repeatedly lift the flaps and they will wear out and tear. Libraries with small budgets may want to invest in other volumes that will last longer. Parents may want to keep Under the Hood as a “special” book that is only read under supervision.
Recommended: 3 stars out of 4
Reviewer: Sandy Campbell
Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines. Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.