Title: Taj Cleans the Garage | Author: Renee Prewitt | Illustrator: Michaela Nienaber | Publication Date: August 2013 | Publisher: The Prewitt Group LLC | Pages: 28 | Recommended Ages: 3+ | Reviewed by: Renee (Mother)
Summary: Taj always wants new cars for his train set, so his parents encourage him to start earning the money to buy them. Much to his surprise, Taj’s new chore turns into an exciting adventure where he is the only one who can save the day.
My Thoughts: Taj Cleans the Garage whisks the reader away on a magical journey from the neighbor’s garage and deep into a jungle on a quest to bring baby cheetahs back to their parents. We first meet Taj who is trying to save up money to buy new trains for his train track set. While he does get an allowance, he is keen to earn extra money by doing extra tasks around the house. He visits his neighbor, Mr. Ryan, who agrees to pay him $2 for helping him to find his flashlight and for cleaning up boxes in his garage. When Taj finds the flashlight, he discovers that it has magical properties and he is transported to a magical land where there are flying horses, pirates, and talking animals. But more importantly, he learns an important life lesson about treating others the way you want to be treated.
Taj Cleans the Garage features every young boy’s fantasy – traveling to a different place and having a grand adventure. I feel there are three separate “parts” to the story. First, there is an underlying theme of teaching children to work in order to earn money to pay for something they want. I liked how the main character, Taj, understands that he needs to pay for the train himself and he is resourceful in trying to figure out a way to earn enough money to pay for it. We have a similar system in our house where our kids have a weekly allowance, but every now and then, we post a special job that involves more effort and where they can earn extra money. I think this teaches children the idea of being hard-working and industrious.
Second, there is a straight-up adventure featured in the story. In this magical world, Taj meets another young boy named Jackson who takes him for a ride on a flying horse, where they swoop over a motley crew of pirates who try to capture them. They eventually land safely on an island named Blue Water Island where Jackson’s Dad is leading a team of hunters searching for cheetahs. Taj sees a chance to earn a reward which would buy him even more train cars for his set so he eagerly agrees to join the hunt. Thankfully, there are no guns shown in the book – only a net and cages!
In the third part of the book, Taj learns that there are more important things in life than money when he meets an elephant who tells him that the baby cheetahs he has found should be returned to their worried parents. His mother’s words echo in his mind:
“Do for others what you want them to do for you”
In the end, Taj chooses to forego the reward at the cost of not receiving the reward for finding and capturing the cheetahs; thus, demonstrating an important life lesson about what is truly important in life.
I do have to bring up a question that my son posed when we were done reading the book. In the story, Taj finds the flashlight and turns it on. That is when the “portal” to the magic world is created and when Taj slips through into the other world. When he awakens to the real world, he is excited to share his tale with Mr. Ryan who pays him $2 for finding his flashlight and putting the boxes away, only as my son asked, “Why did Mr. Ryan pay him when he didn’t finish the job?” Oops!
My Bottom Line: Filled with adventure and magic and containing important underlying messages about hard work and industriousness as well as the Golden Rule (i.e., treating others as you would like to be treated yourself ), Taj Cleans the Garage makes for a great read-aloud story for children aged 3 years and older.
* This book was provided to me by the author free-of-charge in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. *