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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Giving Amazing Machines

Julie Dos Santos is the author of the series Amazing Machines from publisher Marshall Cavendish Benchmark. © 2010. Discounted price $19.95 each.

Cranes ISBN 978-0-7614-4401-5

Diggers ISBN 978-0-7614-4402-2

Fire Engines ISBN 978-0-7614-4403-9

Aircraft ISBN 978-0-7614-4404-6

Tractors ISBN 978-0-7614-4406-0

Trucks ISBN 978-0-7614-4407-7

Trucks We’ve all had students who loved one form of transportation and wanted to read and re-read every book you had on it. Sometimes the students love airplanes. Sometimes trucks. Seldom can you provide enough information to satisfy them. Try the Amazing Machines series from Marshall Cavendish. It’s distinctive layout allows an adult to read each page 3 different ways depending upon the interest level and vocabulary of the child. This enables the child to grow with the book and return to it for "re-reads."

Let’s look at the page for Pickup Trucks as an example (since my oldest son Anthony loved to see pickup trucks when we were living in a Chicago suburb and every trip to the country was a joy for him.) For the youngest reader the parent can read the title of the page "Pickup Truck" and the text highlighted in orange "People ride in the cab of the truck." The main photo has captions detailing major parts like the cab, bed, and side mirror.

For the next level of interest, and in larger letters, comes the text: "People use pickup trucks to carry supplies. Some people like to drive pickup trucks instead of cars."

For the most interested child, the parent can share this text: "Pickup trucks can carry many things. Pickup trucks have strong engines to pull heavy objects like boats. The bed of the truck holds a lot, which helps gardeners, farmers, and other people.

There are at least two photos on each page with the minor photo on the pickup truck page captioned "This pickup truck has hay in the bed."

Perfectly matched illustrations for the youngest child with lots of interesting details in the photos to delight older readers. This makes Trucks a must have on my elementary nonfiction list.

My negative for this title: Of the three web links in the Web Finder at the back of the book, only one had information on trucks. The other two were for truck crafts using supplies like egg cartons. Both of those links were so long that even I mistyped a letter and fumbled around trying to get to the correct page. This tells me there must be a dearth of information on trucks on the internet for the youngest reader.

Fire Engines. I learned something from this book. Don’t you love nonfiction books that teach you new information?! I learned about ten different types of fire engines. Did you know that the different colors of fire hydrants show how fast the water comes out of them? I need to go look up the two colors of the hydrants near my house. Also, did you know that Fire Prevention Week always includes October 9th because that is the day the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 started? I mention that since a dear friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) had never heard of the Chicago Fire and thought because she was from Boston that they must only teach that in the Midwest.

Another must have purchase because this book contains so much new information in a very accessible fashion. The Web Finder links in this title were wonderful. Easy to enter. New knowledge at varying levels of interest. Fun games. Interactive. Just what I want links for this age to be.

Diggers is a must have for students interested in construction work, plowing, mining, and tunnel boring. I had to follow up and research more information after reading about some of the types of equipment that dig. I even viewed videos of Bagger 288 to marvel at its size. I wish the author and publisher had researched a little more for the web finder for these. The first link was appropriate for all construction interests.

The second link takes you to the top of the page where you hope the child will know to click construction or will scroll through the lost list of career choices. If they had simply included #construction, the material would be a better match.

The third link was 73 characters long. It took us to an interesting website with a video showing how to use a Chinese takeout box to make a bulldozer. I’d still much rather have a video of real trucks than of craft projects. Maybe I wouldn’t mind the links so much if there was any description of them in the web finder, but all you see are the three links.

Tractors. Love it. Coming from Iowa I know there are many types of tractors. Some of the urban students I have may not realize they’ve seen a tractor called the utility tractor which pulls lawn mower blades, rakes, or wagons. Whether your students are rural or urban, you’ll want this title.

The web finder is passable in this title, even though the first two links made me quote Elizabeth Bird "meh." The last two links redeemed the list. I’d add the National Farm Toy Museum site from Dyersville, Iowa, to the list with their kids corner page that allows you to move your mouse over a part of the tractor to see what it’s called. Of course, I wasn’t advising them at the time. Hopefully they’ll consider my suggestions on future early elementary web lists.

Aircraft. My son’s first word wasn’t mama or baba (Chinese for papa). No, it was feijiFei Ji - Airplanethe Chinese word for airplane. We were living at the end of the runway of the Palwaukee Airport outside Chicago which was the third busiest airport in Chicago after O’Hare and Midway. Re-named Chicago Executive Airport in 2007, approximately 200,000 take-offs and landings occur annually. No wonder he loved airplanes.

If you have students fascinated with flight, they’ll love this title. Of the three web finder links, two were still valid. The first one has changed already to Be sure to note that correction in your title. It’s a constant problem in publishing to include web links in print when they change so rapidly. Maybe that’s why I like services like Capstone’s FactHound where the student goes to the company website and the company continually monitors and updates their links.

Cranes. I’m happy with the three web links for Cranes’ Web Finder. is always a favorite of mine since I’m so curious about so much of this world. The link provides more in-depth information for an older reader.

When I picked up this title, I couldn’t imagine how they were going to fill a book with information about cranes. Silly me! I learned about a wide variety of cranes and gained a deeper appreciation for the construction industry as a whole. I also spent an hour trying to find more information online regarding this Amazing Fact:
*"In the 1950s, a crane sunk completely in the sand when building a lake in Nebraska. It is still at the bottom of the lake today."

Someone help me out and send me the link to this story. Maybe it’s because its midnight while I’m writing this, but I can’t find it and I want to read more. I’ve heard of the homes still at the bottom of some Tennessee man-made lakes and find this topic fascinating. Where is this lake and wouldn’t this become a boating hazard? I am curious.

I hope you will include the entire set of titles for your elementary library. Our world still needs people to operate these machines and they are fascinating. (Shh! don’t tell my dad the mechanic because I usually show disdain for vehicles.) These are amazing machines and the series lives up to its name.

One thing I don’t like about the website for Marshall Cavendish is that they don’t include pictures of the individual titles in a series. Instead they have the large photo you see at the top of this blog post which gives you a glimpse at a title and an inside spread. I still want to show you the individual titles of each book, but then I’m a very picky librarian.


  1. Julie Dossantos says:

    Thank you very much for the review!