Cranky, the crane, is cranky. Just look at his sad/mad face. He has had a bad morning, with burnt toast, spilled milk, and spilled Fruitos. Plus, a bird poops on him, and it’s raining. “I’m also feeling cranky because well, I’d rather not tell you. It’s personal.” Cranky goes on to explain that his lug nuts are not too tight, his clutch is not slipping. “I’m a well-oiled machine, thank you very much!”
The vehicles are working together to build a bridge. The plot has few holes here and there. “Dump Chuck needs help with the last beam, so I give him a hand.” Since when does a dump truck hoist a beam? No one cares because the story is that charming.
Somehow, at lunch, Cranky ends up on one side of the bridge while everyone else ends up on the other side. A rain cloud is raining only on him.
The first-person narrative works. Cranky introduces his friends, Zippy and Wheezy, cement mixer and forklift, but they are too happy and tell him to cheer up. ”You know what doesn’t help when you’re felling cranky? People telling you to cheer up.”
This sets up a repeating pattern of “you know what doesn’t help when you’re feeling cranky?” The answers vary from page to page: a lot of talking, feeling left out, happy people. The takeaway from the story is that it’s okay to be cranky.
This book has just the right amount of pixie dust, that magical something that makes it a go-to story that will be read over and over by parents, and memorized word for word by children. The dialogue between vehicles is hilarious at times: “Honk yeah, never in a million gears, abso-toot-ly, we’re all antennas, holy chisels.”
Cranky describes things: “I may have blown my gasket, my self-of-steam needs time to cool down.” His friends understand. “Let us know when you are ready to talk.”
There are beans for lunch, a party, a French dessert, a weird and wonderful mix of random stuff that might be more for the adults than the children. When the bridge is finished, “Jacques Hammer makes his famous crème brulée, and there’s a concert with our favorite band, Haulin’ Notes.” Read those last two words again if you didn’t hear the pun.
The art is bold and charming with primary colors. The emotion comes from the googly-eyed vehicles, plus there are flying pots of creamy sweets, and pink ice cream cones being held by various vehicle appendages. The end papers are solid canary yellow. The back cover shows Cranky with his buddy, Dump Chuck, at the construction site. There are lots of orange traffic cones and yellow and black caution tape for good measure. The ice cream plays a pivotal role on the last page, leading Cranky, the crane, to be cranky once again.
In the olden days, this would be called a boy book. Today it’s for everybody who has ever felt cranky. This is the author’s picture book debut, so “Keep ’em coming.”