Picture Book Review: “If I Could Drive, Mama”

If I Could Drive, Mama

Author: Cari Best
Illustrator: Simone Shin
ISBN: 9780374302054
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2016)
Age Range: 4-6 Years
Grade Level: Preschool – 1

Amazon Synopsis:

When Charlie turns a plain cardboard box into a zippy new car, he can’t wait for Mama to have the first ride. He adjusts the mirror, checks to be sure there is enough gas, and reminds Mama to buckle up. Then off they go―REV REV VROOM! There are places to visit and bumps along the way. There is even a traffic jam! By the time they return home, Mama is exhausted, but Charlie can’t wait for her nap to be over so he can drive her someplace else.

My Review

This is an adorable story about a little boy who wants to take his mother to all of her favorite places (around their home) in his new car. In the story, Mama and Charlie spend the day together in an imaginative role-reversal setting, visiting the dress shop (mom’s closet) that has all the right-sized clothes; the library (living room) with its massive bookshelf full of books; the playground (backyard), etc. After a busy day, while Mama naps, Charlie washes his new car, getting it ready for the next adventure.


For me, the story carries sweet sentiments of days past, when my own son was an imaginative little boy, and that sweetness permeates throughout the book. The mother-son relationship – an unshakeable love and bond.

The Characters

Charlie takes center stage, as he should. His delightful imagination is fun, creative, and takes “playing grownup” to another level. Mom is a great sidekick and Dad even makes an appearance, but it’s clear that Charlie is in charge of the story, doubling as the narrator.

The Writing

Overall, the writing is good, I love the storyline and the concept. It was, however, just a bit choppy for me. There are too many dialogue tags that make it a bit confusing and redundant, for example:

I say, “Which one would you like?”
And you say, “The one with pink and green.”
“That’s my favorite, too!” I say. “You can wear it to
Charlie’s Diner, which is where we are going for lunch.”

It’s a matter of preference, I think, and while it certainly doesn’t kill the story for me, I maintain it would be less confusing without all the tags.

Subtle Lessons

There are subtle lessons about car safety, sprinkled throughout the story, such as adjusting the car mirror, checking the gas level, buckling up, using turn signals, etc. These “lessons” are introduced in such a manner that kids can pretend to perform all these actions along with Charlie while they listen to the story.

The Illustrations

The illustrations are soft and muted and sets a comfortable mood and setting for the story. Charlie is an adorable toddler and his sparkle and energy jump off the pages. The pictures of the various rooms in the home and yard create the cozy feel of a child comfortable in his environment.


Overall, “If I Could Drive, Mama” is a delightful story that sparks the imagination and is a fun, creative adventure.

About the Author

Cari Best is the author of Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! She grew up in New York City and lives in Weston, Connecticut.

Review Copy

I obtained a copy of this book to review from my local library. I’m working my way through 500 picture books. Need a picture book review? Contact me!