A long car ride to Grandma’s is much wilder than usual in Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat’s hilarious new picture book. Below the cover’s title line, a family sits miserably in their car—but above it, our far-from-bored young hero rides on a giant T. rex, surrounded by cavorting pirates, cowboys and pyramid builders, while Mom and Dad gape out the window, horrified.
Going to Grandma’s birthday party sounds like fun, but sitting in the back seat for miles is mind numbing, and the view out the car window is anything but scintillating. Mom and Dad are annoyed as the much-dreaded question emanates from the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Of course, the answer to that question depends on where you’re going, and this clever take on a familiar lament stretches the reader’s imagination—even questioning the proper way to hold a book, and which way to turn a page. The reader’s orientation switches from page to page as the sights become more fantastical.
Seconds feel like minutes, minutes like hours, hours like days, and days become years. Before we know it, the car ride has taken the reader back to the days of the dinosaurs. As we savor the excitement of the moment, we’re vaulted into the future. Santat’s dynamic and captivating illustrations remind us that there is no greater gift in life than the present, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.
Billie B. Little is the Founding Director of Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, a hands-on museum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.