Pete & Pillar: The Big Rain" is an endearing new picture book written and illustrated by Jeffery Stoddard, who grew up in Craig and now lives in Colorado Springs. The book is "a book of friendship based on John 15:13."
The setting is a town located in a valley in the Shady Mountains. That's where two friends, Pete and Pillar, live.
Now, Pete and Pillar's friendship is far from ordinary because they're machines, one a digger and the other a hauler.
Pete is a big red diesel truck with lots of wheels, a tall smokestack and a bed (at times with a box) on which to haul things. Pete hauls things like rocks and gravel - and sometimes even Pillar. He has "Pete" printed on his door.
Pillar, a big yellow bulldozer, moves along on his steel tracks clearing away soil and rocks with his heavy steel blade.
One of Pillar's jobs is to make room for things. "Pillar" is printed on his side.
Pete and Pillar are best friends. In the machines' construction community, "everybody knows that haulers don't talk to diggers." But that doesn't bother Pete and Pillar any, even when some of the other machines try to cause trouble between them.
Jake, an old dump truck, tells Pete that bulldozers can't be trusted. They smell like dusty grease and old engine oil.
And John, a long road grader, warns Pillar that one day when he needs Pete, the red truck won't be there.
But no matter. Pete and Pillar continue to work side by side, and they're such good friends that each one wears a little of the other's paint. When Pete gets stuck, Pillar is there to pull him out. When Pillar's battery dies, Pete loans him some of his power.
What makes these machines so lovable are the artistic expressions ( headlight "eyes" and mouth-like lines on Pete's bumper and Pillar's blade) that Stoddard has given them. For example, when Pillar's battery dies, his headlights are lifeless, and his tongue hangs out of a break in the blade. Pete's headlights show concern for his friend.
The reader sees worry in Pete and Pillar's headlights the day it starts to rain. The other machines stay in the shed so they won't rust, but Pete and Pillar sit side by side and watch water rush over a dam. They're right at the edge of the riverbank that protects the town from flooding.
Water rises higher and higher until it's nearly to the top of the riverbank. The town is in danger. Pillar knows what to do, but in the events that follow. Pillar and Pete's friendship is tested.
According to his biography (on the inside dust cover of the book), Stoddard hopes "a ragged copy of 'Pete & Pillar' will still be on children's bookshelves in 20 years." I think that just might happen. The illustrations are wonderful. The book is a must-read!
The book, intended for ages 4 to 7, is published by Warner Press Kids (2007). The hardcover book can be found at Downtown Books in Craig.
Copyright Diane Prather, 2007. All rights reserved.