The Wheels on the Bus, an iconic children's road song perhaps rivaled in popularity only by its less sober cousin, 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, has been immortalized in music, film, print, and the collective unconscious of English speakers everywhere. While its provenance is unclear, we can assume that this populist hymn is as old as public transportation itself.
Paul O. Zelinsky's interpretation of the classic weaves meticulously engineered moving parts into a swirling sunset dreamscape of lush magenta, violet, ochre, and coral, producing an effect upon its youngest readers that is both stimulating and narcotic. The child does not simply read, or listen to this book being read; she transcends her sublunary state and explores a town whose inhabitants are driven by myriad motivations even as they travel together in that most humble and universal of conveyances: the bus.
If the "bus" is the collective effort of a community to accommodate the dreams of its individual members, the "town" is the embodiment of the civilization that makes those dreams attainable. Zelinsky lays bare both the physical and social infrastructure of urban life by juxtaposing personal vignettes that run the gamut of human emotion in a contact zone of diverse cultures and classes with the unforgiving tectonics of a city that radiates from a core of public symbolicity to an industrial hinterland of smokestacks and grey tenements. In the end, Zelinsky extends his own central metaphor of bus as public conveyor of individual dreams by revealing that the "town" does not offer just one bus, but an entire fleet.