Introducing the CHARACTER of “Backhoe Joe”

Title: Backhoe Joe

Author: Lori Alexander

Illustrator: Craig Cameron

Publisher: Harper

Year: 2014

Word Count: 500 (estimate)

Last November I completed Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month challenge, and lucky me, I was the winner of a prize — a copy of Backhoe Joe by Lori Alexander! The book just arrived in the mail, and I was eager to dig right in (pun intended!)

Backhoe Joe is every little boy’s dream (and maybe some little girl’s too!) – their very own piece of heavy machinery as a pet. What I love about this book is the way that Lori turns Joe into a very lovable personality. I mean, I’m not a lover of dump trucks, backhoes and diggers (although that may change as my son grows!), but she makes the relationship between Nolan, the little boy in the story, and Joe so sweet that you can’t help but envy it!

So if you’re wondering how to bring characterization to a backhoe. Here are some examples of how Lori does it.

Nolan first sees Joe while collecting some rocks and is quite excited by his discovery.

Nolan took a step closer.

Beep! Beep! Beep!

The backhoe reversed into the bushes.

I love how the reader sees Joe’s fear with the beeping and backing up — which is perfectly fitting to a backhoe! Later we see Joe’s playful side when:

Nolan gave the backhoe a pat behind the loader, which made his bucket wiggle like crazy.

His mischievous side comes out in the following:

He (Nolan) started with a few simple commands:


Joe revved at the  mailman.


Joe treaded through Mr. Oldman’s grass.

“Leave it!”

Joe dug in the garbage.

Throughout the book, Joe’s character is brought to life in behaviors that are perfectly suited to a backhoe. The humor comes from the fact that they are also perfectly suited to the more typical pet experience of having a brand new puppy!

What is your favorite children’s book where an inanimate object is brought to life through great characterization?

Here’s a link to more reviews of story elements in Christie Wild’s 14:14 Blogging Challenge.

6 Responses to “Introducing the CHARACTER of “Backhoe Joe””

  1. Katie @ The Logonauts

    How precious! Puppy was exactly the thought I had too, from your description, a connection I know kids would love. Congrats on winning a PiBoIdMo book! Did you complete the full month too? I’ve joined 12×12 this year to try and push further but am not making as much progress as I’d like …

  2. Juliana Lee

    What a cute story! We’re going to ‘study’ it next month on Debut PB if you’re interested in joining us. (Facebook group) After the study, we have an online interview with the author in real time, so you can easily participate. Hope you join us!

  3. Christie Wright Wild

    Cute! I never seem to make as much progress as I’d like to either. I am on 12×12, and in Debut PB, but I feel like I never have time for anything. I suppose it’s the one thing we writers struggle with the most.

  4. Damon Dean

    Sounds like great character development, Lindsay. I am reminded of an age-old picture book about a steam shovel that was published in the 50’s. “Mike Mulligan” or something like that. Fun story about character. Thanks for the post.


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