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Book Reviews

The Way Cool License Plate Book

by Leonard Wise

Toronto writer and license plate buff Leonard Wise devotes himself to the weird and wonderful world of vanity license plates in this 64-page compendium of plate history, road-trip games, and notable examples of North American vanity plates. Wise begins with games such as alphabet hunt (where you try to find each letter of the alphabet on the plates of passing cars and trucks), which kids and parents can use to make long trips seem quicker.

The bulk of the book, though, is made up of 50-plus pages of colour illustrations of vanity plates from all over the U.S. and Canada. Some plates describe the driver’s occupation (Vermont lawyer: ISU4U), outlook on life (world-weary Louisianian: DN THAT), or favourite animal (New Brunswick dog-lover: POOCH). Most of the illustrations of plates are based on real letter-and-number combinations that have been switched to different states or provinces to avoid the complicated issue of permissions. A few plates are creations of the author.

Wise breaks up this lively gallery with historical facts about license plates (“In 1942, Delaware became the last state to issue a porcelain plate”). Each plate is annotated with an explanation of its meaning, and that’s a good thing, since many of them may be a little arcane for younger readers.

This title will appeal to families who spend time on the road together, staring out the window at all the cars passing by. It’s hard to know exactly what its major appeal will be – the games or just the sheer fun of learning to decipher those unusual plates – but this book has FN 4 KDS written all over it.