Three picture books about racing use the excitement of competition to introduce themes of cooperation, collaboration and sharing.

Jamie Harper’s Miles to the Finish finds Miles and his buddy Otto polishing their wheels for the preschool Grand Prix when trouble arrives in the form of a woman. Well, a girl—Indie’s a racer, too, with a much faster car. Miles is determined to beat her, but cooperation and friendship win the day. The book’s brightly colored mixed media art and dialogue-driven story make it perfect for reading aloud, right down to the big “ERRRRRH!” when Miles slams on the brakes. Such drama!

Miles and his friends are human, but Number One Sam is a dashing dog who’s used to being number one on the track. When he loses a race, his confidence is shaken, and he neglects his best friend. Another race looks like it’s in the bag, but when a crisis arises, Sam does the right thing and is able to enjoy a different kind of victory. Author/illustrator Greg Pizzoli uses bold colors and simple designs here, so the little things stand out: When Sam loses, his car’s big red “1” is crossed out and a blue “2” is handwritten beside it; when he stops to help some birds, their chatter includes one asking him to slow down and another declaring, “You are my idol.” He’ll be yours, too.

Chisato Tashiro’s Five Nice Mice series hits the road with Five Nice Mice & the Great Car Race. It’s the most visually complex book here, but has the simplest story: The mice compete in an auto race whose prize is the biggest piece of cheese imaginable! Inspired to succeed, they design a car from an empty can (of Red Bull) with a battery-powered motor and a secret weapon to help them reach the finish line. The race takes the competitors through an outdoor market and public park, past curious children, dogs and mice lining the race path with directional flags. Tashiro gives each mouse a distinct look and personality, and kids will have fun picking them out of the crowd. The moral here is simple—an edible prize is best shared with friends—and who can argue with that? These mice really are nice.


Heather Seggel reads too much and writes all about it in Northern California.

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