Backhoe Joe

Somewhat gratifyingly, La Serpiente wept bitterly last night at bedtime, wishing both her parents were there to put her to bed, rather than one of them gallivanting around a running track. When she was clingy tonight and refused to get off the toilet and into the bath for ten minutes, we assumed that was the hangover from the previous evening. Eventually I got to read her Backhoe Joe, and shortly afterwards she began vomiting. Say what you like, but that’s clear and lucid literary criticism, delivered like clockwork every ten minutes for two hours.

Backhoe Joe is the story of a boy who collects rocks in his backpack, and one day finds a backhoe on his way home. (If you’re British, that’s a JCB, or an excavator to anyone else not affected by branding of earthmoving machinery.) The eponymous backhoe is a shy creature that first hides in the undergrowth, then follows the boy home. His aghast parents watch as this unsuitable (and unrealistic) pet digs up the garden, leaks diesel on the driveway, and otherwise fails to be a good houseguest.

Eventually Backhoe Joe is revealed to be the lost pet of a man in a dayglow tabard and a hard hat, and is reunited with his owner. Hooray for Nelson, the little boy, for being so self-sacrificing of his own happiness. On the other hand, nul points for the author for missing the obvious twist, that the building site Backhoe Joe enjoys playing in is actually where he was meant to be all along, and the delayed work there was due to his absence. I mean, come on. I’m hardly a professional author of children’s books about construction vehicles, and even I could plan that out.

In its favour, Backhoe Joe has better art than Construction Kitties, and a plot superior to "some cats install a swing set". La Serpiente appeared to enjoy it much more than me (I wanted to read If A T.Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party) but against that, she’s the one being sick at regular intervals, not me.


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