September 4, 2013
Acclaimed children's book based on trucks and construction
Sherri Duskey Rinker turned her son's obsession with trucks and construction sites into a New York Times bestselling children's book.
“One night we started to tell each other a story about how whenever we would drive past a construction site at night, all the trucks were sound asleep so they have energy for the next day,” she said.
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site is a bedtime story written by Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, about the work that happens on a construction site told through the fictional characters of real trucks commonly used on construction projects.
The Chicago-based author says she decided to write the book as a bedtime story because she used to read books to her son at the end of the day to get him unwound and ready for bed.
“All of his favourite books were all about trucks” she said.
Not only was her son the inspiration, Rinker also credits him for providing the knowledge and terminology about construction and trucks, which is evident throughout the book.
From the crane truck that raises the beams, to the bulldozer that “clears the way to level ground, and fills the air with thunderous sound,” Rinker delivers all the technical terms accurately.
However, she did do her own research to ensure the facts were correct.
Rinker admitted she has little to no background in construction — she was surrounded by two older sisters growing up and her closest connection to the industry is a friend who owns a ready-mix company.
She said parenthood and raising two boys allowed her to expand her interests and knowledge.
“You kind of follow their obsessions. Their obsessions are your obsessions,” she said.
“My older son was particularly interested in trains. I always found myself going to train museums... and all of those things that parenthood leads you into that you probably wouldn’t pursue yourself.”
Despite the success the book has received, there have also been small pockets of criticism for the lack of a female presence in the story, especially in a male-dominated industry, where women are gradually making their mark.
She recalls when — three quarters into the editing process — her illustrator asked her why there weren’t any female trucks.
“Let’s keep in mind this is kid’s literature,” she said.
“It’s not about excluding women in the construction industry. I think part of the reason that the book has been so successful is it really speaks to boyness.
“The book was inspired by how my boys feel about the trucks and when my boys play, their trucks are boys.”
While she thought about the gender issue, Rinker called her friend who owned the ready-mix company for advice, and asked her if she thinks her trucks are male or female.
“They’re loud, they’re messy and they give me a ton of trouble. Believe me when I tell you — they’re boys,” she replied.
The success of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site has paved the way for Rinker’s second book, Steam Train, Dream Train, which hit the shelves in April.
“I think there’s a message in the book that, it’s a hard working industry with good values,” she said.
“It’s about good old fashion hard-days work and rest well-earned.”
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