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When it comes to Disney PIXAR Cars, my nephew is a little bit of a fan. I wouldn't be surprised if he's watched the film well into the 3 digit numbers. Bedcover, cups, toys, clothing, tent, books, posters... He's definitely starting to rival my obsession with Thomas the Tank when I was his age. The most recent addition to his collection was 'Cars The Essential Guide', a DK book released in 2009 but this revised edition to include Cars Toons (Mater's Tall Tales).
The book is undoubtedly recognisable as Cars with the Cars logo and the glossy images of Lightning McQueen, Mater and Doc on the front and Guido, Luigi, Sally, The King and Sheriff on the back. The blurb on the back introduces McQueen more for those who don't know the story as well as information on what the book contains. At 64 pages, A4 size, there's plenty of information about each of the Cars characters as well as the settings used in the movie.
Considering this is a book aimed at younger kids (age 5+) the first thing that jumps out at me are the headings. The font is 'magneto', just the same as the Cars logo but for such a young audience the headings are not very clear to read. Thankfully the majority of the text is in Times New Roman and a decent size so far more readable.
Like the blurb on the back, the information provided in the text on each page is likely to already be known by a big fan or even those who have seen the film once. Each character has a double page with a big image and smaller images taken from the film. The only real new information includes a few car facts such as the type of engine it contains and the speeds it can reach. I like the fact each character has tags to parts of their car to explain certain features e.g. on the tractors 'Every tractor has a different spot pattern' which points to the mud.
The layout of the book is very true to the film. Although from the start you need to have seen the film or it would likely spoil what will happen, the characters are introduced in the order they are seen in the film. So after it introduces McQueen, The King and Chick Hicks it talks about the race, Dinoco 400. I like that these double pages open up so you can see a huge graphic of the Speedway which again points out certain features. There's the information on the teams, the fans, the mean cars Mack runs into on the road, to all the characters he meets at Radiator Springs. Again, interspersed between the characters are pages on the races and the settings in the order shown in the film. Having read the book with nephew many times, I think it's The Great Outdoors showing a map, the waterfall and Radiator Springs track that gives the most new information such as how the town got its name and names of the landscape features.
The main graphics are not as finely detailed as the images taken from the film but they're still pretty impressive. They don't completely miss out detail though - they still show shadows, lights and plenty of detail on the leaves on the trees so a lot of work has gone into them. They're bright, colourful and tie in very well with the film.
The final few pages of the book include information on 'Mater's Tall Tales', a spin off from the Cars film. I actually prefer the graphics used on these pages as it's not just the pictures from the film that are highly detailed; the large graphics seem far more detailed too. These pages seem a lot more colourful but again if you've already seen the film you're not going to learn any new information.
I don't think older kids will be as impressed with the book considering there's not much to find out that they wouldn't already know. For younger kids they can enjoy the pictures, name all the characters and eventually read the text themselves. It's not too challenging a read although young kids will still need help. The paragraphs are very short and some boxed so it won't feel like a lot of hard work to read. It is a good book and well laid out rather than just jumping into McQueen and Mater, it doesn't leave the lesser known characters to the end.
Cars the movie has already held my nephew's attention for well over a year now and it's likely he'll be enjoying this book for a good while yet - especially with the imminent release of Cars 2. DK already have the listing on the website for the follow up to this book 'Cars 2 The Essential Guide'. Priced at £9.99 each I think it might be asking a little too much especially if planning on owning both. We managed to pick this one up for £4 at a book sale so far better value. If you know a little boy or girl who is a big fan of the film then it would make a great gift.