When I first started posting on Instagram about books the boys and I read, my friends with daughters commented that they were intrigued by our boy books. Boy books? I never thought of our books that way. And while I feel we have a balance of books for boys and girls, there are a few that were probably written with boys in mind. Here are two of our favorites that double as alphabet and number books.
I Stink! is a boisterous book that tells kids about the life of a garbage truck from its parts—“I’ve got lights, ten wide tires. No A.C., not me.”—to the garbage—“Now I have room for alphabet soup. Get a load of my recipe: apple cores, banana peels, candy wrappers, dirty diapers…” The boys love it!
I’m Dirty! is about an equally rowdy backhoe loader who loves his dirty job. Again, kids learn about a backhoe’s parts—“I’ve got…a specialized, maximized, giant-sized loader bucket.”—and how they are used—“…I shift it into R, and back-drag the buck over the dirt.” They also count all the junk that the backhoe clears—“6 broken bicycles, 5 burned-out barbecues…”
I know you can’t hear a book, but the illustrations and text shout from the pages. Explanations of things start as questions, which encourage kids to participate. Then there are short, spunky answers. These books are truly fun to read.
Author and illustrator, Kate and Jim McMullan, have created a whole series of these vehicle books that are as loud and enthusiastic, including:
• I’m Mighty! about a tugboat
• I’m Fast! about a train engine
• I’m Brave! about a fire engine
• I’m Cool! about a zamboni
And if the books aren’t enough, Amazon is turning them into a series, The Stinky & Dirty Show. With our Prime membership, we got a sneak peak of the pilot episode and have been watching it for the last year in hopes they’d make more. And they have! The full season is finally coming later this summer. Stinky and Dirty, the garbage truck and backhoe loader, respectively, are not as rough as you’d expect them to be from the book. But that’s ok. They work together to solve problems and have fun.
Ideas for Reading and Beyond
- Point and Read: As you read, point to the words so your kids can follow along, especially when you get to the letters and numbers. In these books it is easier than most because the type is often big. This will help your kids connect the print and oral forms of letters, numbers, and words. I take it further by adjusting the text a bit. For the alphabet, I point to and say, “A is for apple core, B is for banana peel…” For the numbers, I don’t just read what’s written, but we count the items. If you’re reading these books on a regular basis and continue pointing, your kids will start to recognize some words by sight, like “STOP” and “BURRRP.” Let them read those. Soon they’ll be reading with you.
- Make Connections to the Book: On garbage day, try to get outside to see the garbage truck. Does it stink? Can your kids name some of the truck parts? Ask them to guess what kind of garbage it is carrying. If there’s a construction site in your neighborhood, visit to see if there’s a backhoe loader.
- Create Your Own Alphabet Soup: Challenge your kids to make up their own alphabet soup with things in your home like toys or books. For example, animals, baseballs, cars, dominos… And do the same with counting. Laundry is a good opportunity—1 sweater, 2 towels, 3 shirts, 4 pairs of underwear, 5 socks…
Whether you have boys or girls, we hope you enjoy Kate and Jim McMullan’s books. If you’ve already read them, share your favorite.