donald crews

February 25, 2010

 Donald Crews

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Donald Crews is the author and illustrator of several children's books including the Caldecott Honor books Freight Train and School Bus. You can read more about him on his artist profile page at the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature. 

School Bus

Crews is a particular favorite of both Juliet and myself. We first discovered his book School Bus when Juliet was in her "school bus phase" and fell in love with his bright, graphic illustrations. Since then, we have checked out 10 more of his books. I wanted to share them with you. This first set of books are what I call "the vehicle books." Juliet went through a transportation phase where all she wanted to read about was buses, trucks, planes, trains, and ships. These books were PERFECT for that time.

Freight Train Big Book (Mulberry Big Book)
You are probably familiar with Freight Train--it's a gorgeous book and perfect for young train enthusiasts.

Inside Freight Train

We also love Inside Freight Train which is a fun pull-tab board book. You can move panels to reveal what is inside each train car. We own this one and it is a regular bedtime favorite.


Keeping with the vehicle theme, Truck is another beautiful book your child is sure to enjoy. Juliet especially loves the highway signs in this one. We like to talk about where this truck is going.


Flying is all about airplanes from take-off to landing. The plane in this book takes off in the day and lands at night. Juliet is especially intrigued by the passage of time in this book. This is a wonderful book to read together before going on a plane trip. 


Harbor takes you into the world of ferryboats, liners, tankers, tugboats, barges, and freighters. There is even a fireboat in the end! (That's our favorite.)

Sail Away

Sail Away follows the journey of a family in a sailboat through calm and stormy waters. Like Flying, it begins in daylight and ends at night. We like the numerous opportunities for sound effects in this one: putt! putt! putt!

Bicycle Race

Bicycle Race is a fun counting/vehicle books to read together. Following a group of twelve bikers in a road race, each page monitors who is in the lead. First it is eight, then three, then six, etc. until finally at the end, the underdog number nine wins the race. It's fun to look at the illustrations and ask Juliet, "Who's in the lead now?" She has fun seeing how the bikers change position. 

Ten Black Dots

Ten Black Dots is a clever counting book that uses the dots in pictures. For example, one dot makes a sun or a moon. Two dots make the eyes of a fox, etc. Our favorite is the last page with 10 dots making a tree full of balloons!

Light is a book celebrating light from sunlight, to city lights, to headlights, to floodlights, to moonlight, and starlight. The images are striking. I especially love this one. 


Parade is a fun book about the time before, during, and after a street parade. It's colorful and exciting. Juliet's favorite question to ask after reading it is, "Why did they make such a mess?" (There is confetti littered all over the street!)

Night at the Fair

We only recently discovered Night at the Fair, but I wish I had known of it earlier. When Juliet was around 18 months old, we took her to the State Fair. Too young to ride any of the rides, all we did was push her around in her stroller, ate funnel cakes, and looked at all the bright lights and people. 

The next day, she asked if we could go back. And then for the next four or five months, she demanded that we look at our pictures from the fair EVERY DAY--sometimes several times a day. She fell most deeply in love with the Ferris Wheel. I searched high and low for books about fairs or with images of ferris wheels and found several, but none as beautiful and complete or true to our experience as this book. The ferris wheel image is particularly stunning. 


Bigmama's is a story based on Crew's childhood experiences traveling to Cottondale, Florida to visit his grandparent's house. It's a memory full of childhood fun such as looking for nests with eggs in them, digging up worms, and fishing in the pond. 

If you are wondering about the title, here's the explanation, "We call our Grandma Bigmama. Not that she was big, but she was Mama's Mama." This reminds me of how Juliet calls me a "big lady" as in "When I grow up, I'm going to be a big lady like you, mama." 

The second to the last page says, "The night was jet black except for millions of stars. We could hardly sleep thinking about things to come." Then the final page fast forwards with an image of the future and the narrator as a grown man looking out his window into the night saying, "Some nights even now, I think that I might wake up in the morning and be at Bigmama's with the whole summer ahead of me." 

So which Donald Crews book is your favorite? Which one do you want to check out next? 



Jamee said...

i love these books- i need to look through my teacher books i know i have some of his books - they would be great for a read to my kiddos- thanks as always for sharing

Playing by the book said...

I shall have to get Bicycle Race for when the Tour de France is on - my husband loves that race, and this might be the book to get my girls hooked!

Raising a Happy Child said...

This is a great round-up of his books. We read some of them, but definitely not all. A lot of your titles are new to me, but we loved The Freight Train when Anna was younger. Light looks especially interesting, and I will look for it in the library.

pussreboots said...

Thanks for this post about Donald Crews. He's a favorite author in this household but we knew very little about him! Our absolute favorite book is Truck.

vanessa said...

Zoe, your daughters will love the Bicycle Race. It's very fun and perfect for reading during the Tour de France!

I hope you all find copies of these books in your libraries. Just tonight, Juliet was asking to read Sail Away. She was sad when I told her it was back at the library.

Kim said...

Oh, thank you so much! We will be looking for these on our next trip to the library.

Michelle said...

Hi, I'm new to your blog. I came over from Pocket Full of Posies, and I am glad I did!! As a Mom of 4 boys, we have read a lot of Donald Crews!! Our favorite is Freight Train!! Even now, my oldest are 11(twins) and love to read it to their 4 yr old brother. And they still read it just like the librarian did the very first time they heard it. Thanks for sharing all your idea!!

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