Arthur was playing in his bouncer and I was drinking coffee watching his favorite french cartoon Trotro, when Elise came home from a morning shopping run. Along with the essentials, she pulled out a new children’s book she said she had to buy because of the author… JOHN CENA!
I had never heard that John Cena had written a children’s book about monster trucks, but Arthur and I were all for it. Upon further investigation, Cena has penned a series of children’s books featuring Elbow Grease, a young, small, and spunky monster truck with big dreams and enough determination for an army. This adventure, Elbow Grease vs. Motozilla, was written in 2019 and wonderfully illustrated by Howard McWilliam.
As a constantly sidetracked parent, we didn’t read the book right away. The following weekend, we visited my father and grandmother. On the television in the background, a monster truck rally was taking place. Arthur was mesmerized. I immediately thought of this book and couldn’t wait to read it to him. The next day, we huddled together on the living room floor and broke it open.
The story is of Elbow Grease and his four brothers; Tank, Flash, Pinball, and Crash. Elbow Grease being much smaller than his brothers, seemed a little jealous of his brothers because they had more fans, even if they all supported their younger brother firmly. The book does a good job of giving each truck a personality, from the analytical brain to the lovable dummy. All of them watch their favorite truck, Big Wheels McGee, get utterly destroyed in a demolition derby against the big bad Motozilla.
Upon watching this, Elbow Grease has the idea that he and his brothers should band together to defeat the unbeatable monster. With the help of his biggest fan, a young girl named Mel the Mechanic, they build a device in the vein of a Power Rangers megazord that uses all of the truck’s individual strengths with Elbow Grease leading the way to defeat the unbeatable monster.
Arthur, bless his heart, is a baby and does not understand story structure. He does like colors and funny voices, and this story allowed plenty of both. The illustrations were very fun, as each truck had great detail to display their personalities, along with the fans that cheer for and watch the demolition derbies. On every page, Arthur would grab at and look all over the page at the different colors and shapes. There is also little dialogue bubbles that were fun for me to read due to the content, and for Arthur who got to hear his dad create different voices for all of these fun and colorful characters. There were plenty of baby laughs throughout.
My only minor gripe with this story is that it might be a tad long for its intended audience, as by the end of the story, Arthur’s attention seemed to wane. That said, I really enjoyed reading this story and Arthur seemed to as well, so props to John Cena for using his experience as the babyface of all babyfaces to create a fun story on the value of family and teamwork that my boy will be able to come back to and enjoy.