Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site: Why are the anthropomorphised vehicles all male?

by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

This is a rhetorical question. Perhaps it has been asked and answered before. However, considering that vehicles have no gender at all, as they are, in fact, vehicles, then the least I can do is mix up the pronouns in this one. The book is quite sweet and reads reasonably well (even if I could live without the ‘Hey! Pipe down!’ aside in one illustration – my kids like to bellow it at each other and giggle) – but my thrill comes from giving she/her pronouns to the bulldozer – No one’s as tough/ and strong as she. This is a much more satisfying read if you adlib with she/he/they pronouns as you go. Or, if you prefer, it – they are vehicles, after all.

To be fair, there are a couple of female trucks later in the series.  I think Flatbed is female, and there’s a little female truck starring in Three Cheers for Kid McGear! (2019).  But the core team, as they deal with shapes, colours, opposites, 123s and ABCs are all male. We didn’t get beyond the first, our need for vehicles being partly assauged by Little Blue Truck which we acted out with various toys roped in to play the characters. And by traffic jams. Fortunately not real ones too often, but a great traffic jam floor puzzle from ‘Melissa and Doug’ and by making traffic jams in the hall with every vehicle we could find and then blocks and other objects masquerading to add to the jam. The fascination still escapes me, but it was very real for a while.

In our house, the need for female characters is not driven primarily by me, but by our daughter who asks sternly of every book, ‘Are there any girls in it?’ and looks unconvinced if you can only produce a minor character. She loves her princesses, but hers don’t follow conventional lines:

‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!’

‘I cut my hair, I’ve only got noodles!’

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