Book Detail < Book Search  

Tough Tug

Tough Tug

Author: Margaret Read MacDonald
Illustrator: Rob McClaren

Little Tough Tug takes his first long haul to Alaska and saves a friend tug in distress. Lively chanting text chugs tug along his way.

Type Year Publisher Price Length   ISBN
Hardcover  2017  Two Lions, Amazon    32p   

Additional Information and Resources



Literary Fusions
Integration Ideas Character The facial expressions on the boats in Tough Tug are exquisite! So many good character words come to mind as I look at the many faces of Tough Tug! Wow! For younger students, you could pick one of these pictures to put up on the screen to study as a class. Point out the eyes, the eyebrows, the shape of the mouth, even the smoke stack on the back of the boat, and talk about how they all contribute to the character of Tough Tug in that moment. For older students, put out a series of pictures like we have above, or one from the beginning, middle, and end of the story, and talk about the way the character changes over the course of the book. In the beginning, Tough Tug is bold and cocky, and by the end he’s confident. Have students discuss what events from the story contributed to his character traits. What events helped him progress from falsely confident to truly confident? And that’s just one character in this book! Depending on the standards you are responsible for, you could use this to model how characters interact with each other. Tough Tug and Arctic Tug don’t exactly see eye to eye at the beginning. But through the events in the book, they both have a new appreciation for each other by the end! Levels of Story – verbs and word choice I LOVE the nuances of text and illustration. I’m not sure if the author and illustrator intended for it to be this way, but there seems to me to be two levels of the story on each page. The words in big, bold, teal font are also big, bold, movement words. As I was reading, I realized that these bold words, in conjunction with the illustrations, can tell the story on their own. It almost feels like a board book in the simplicity of the words. When I read to younger students, less is more! For my 2- and 3-year olds, I read the bold words, talk about the picture (or just let them absorb) and then move on. For my older and more kinesthetic students, I have them study the movement/action verbs and point out what they mean by looking at the pictures. Then, I read the story a second time and this time, since they know the meanings of the words, the students move (within their space) the way the verb is dictating. After studying the verbs like this, move it into their writing! When the students go to writing center or participate in Writers’ Workshop, have the students use these strong verbs. If they are writing a story about going to the beach, how did the waves move? If they are playing baseball, how did they swing the bat? Make sure that the students add a great picture that shows emotion! You could also read the words in the black text to add more information for older listeners. It’s more dialogue and adds more detail to the characters. Or you could do a bit of both! Maps The end papers of Tough Tug show a simple map of Tough Tug’s journey from Anacortes, WA, where he was built, to Anchorage, AK. The map is a great illustration, but for kiddos who likely haven’t traveled outside of their home city, it doesn’t provide much context for Tug’s journey. To Google Maps!


"Tough Tug sends positive messages about responsibility and helping others. Repeated phrases on each spread – Slide and Splash, Swirld and Twirl – get exaggerated font sizes and and lend a fun rhythm to storytelling. The digital illustrations personify the boats, giving them wide eyes and facial features, like eyepatches and mustaches. Kids who love movies like Cars will enjoy this fun add to vehicle/transportation picture books. Get your readers up and moving to this story like you would for Helen Oxenbury’s classic, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: swirling and splashing, painting and priming, using their arms and legs to wade through the story. "  ...momreadlit blog

"A tugboat's size and might are easy to anthropomorphize; add this personified puffer to the mix. Tough Tug is built near Seattle, made of strong steel welded together and adorned with a fresh coat of bright red paint. Wide googly eyes and a determined smile complete the look. On launch day, Tough Tug triumphantly flashes forward and backward, twirling and swirling through the water. Older tugboats (distinguished variously by mustaches, glasses, and eye patches) grumble at the youngster's bravado. "Push and pull is what tugs do. Practice THAT." Tough Tug's first job is to tow a barge to Alaska. Rhythmic mantras churn across the surface of the water in bold navy letters: "Ready, steady. / Steady, ready. // Chug and tug. / Tug and chug." But Tough Tug is overeager and challenges Arctic Tug to a race. The thrum changes to "Race and run! / Run and race!" Arctic Tug is first to Sitka, but while crossing the open ocean to Anchorage, the older tug gets into trouble. It's Tough Tug to the rescue! McClurkan's digital paintings look quite modern, but there is a feel to his foamy waves that recalls the mid-20th-century harbor of Little Toot. The anthropomorphized boats have plenty of personality, and readers who study the expressions on the container ships will be rewarded. An author's note explains this was inspired by a true story of one tug rescuing another boat from a competing tugboat company. A brassy, assertive fellow—young readers in the middle of their own power struggles will relate. (Picture book. 3-6) "  ...Kirkus Jan 15, 2018

"Tough Tug is a brand-new boat. He likes to swirl and twirl—and run and race. He wants everyone to see what he can do. But when he sails to Alaska for the first time, he finds out what being a tug really means… "  ...Chldren's Book Council Feb 2018

" Tough Tug is a spirited young tugboat who's just getting the hang of all he can do in and around the port. Picture a 3-year-old jubilantly running around in a new, unexplored place, swerving this way and that, jutting all about as she explores the space on her own two feet. Tug does all of this merrily (much to the chagrin of the other tugboats) and is eager to show what he can do with his first assignment. Accompanying another older tug, Tough Tug soon faces rough waters and a threatening storm. And what's worse... Tug notices the distress signal of his mentor off in the distance and must decide what to do. The story's pared down story is embellished with pairs of words capturing Tough Tug's restless movement . SWISH and SWOOSH! TUG and PULL! SWERVE and SWIRL! And all of these words help contrast Tough Tug from the older tugboats. We all really loved Rob's mustachioed older tugboats (especially the one with the great big walrus mustache) and there was something about the way that Rob brought these boats to life that felt different from other books with anthropomorphized boats. And, quite frankly, felt exactly right in that way that I can see my kids drawing boats with eyes and mustaches just like this in the future. The book conclude with a note that the story was inspired by a real event! And one quick google search will send you down a rabbit whole of heroic tugboat crews making headlines. Very cool!"  ...Matthew C Winner

"Ricki’s Review: This delightful book is sure to capture the spirit of young children. Tough Tug has determination and energy, and I yearned to read this book aloud to a classroom of readers. As he adventures to new horizons, Tough Tug realizes just how difficult it is to be a tug boat, but he knows that he passion will get him to his goal. The bright illustrations feature determined, anthropomorphic ships. Readers will feel energized after reading this one. Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book begs for movement. I’d read this book to preschoolers and kindergarteners and ask them to move with tough tug. Reading this story and reacting to the movement words (e.g. “haul”) would help them learn some great new vocabulary!"  ...Unleashing Readers

"Kids fascinated by boats and the sea will find lots to love in Margaret Read MacDonald’s rollicking ocean adventure. From the time he’s welded and riveted in the shipyard, Tough Tug has a can-do attitude that little ones will appreciate. He loves his color, his name, and his special abilities. Although his skills need practice and are a bit haphazard at first, just like children, Tough Tug learns to do his job well and puts games aside when he’s needed most. As Tough Tug rescues Arctic Tug, readers will cheer his bravery and perseverance. MacDonald’s straightforward text and first-person dialog from Tough Tug emphasizes the little boat’s self-confidence, willingness to learn, and readiness to help, making him a positive role-model for kids. Three-word action phrases sprinkled throughout describe the motions and duties of tugboats. Rob McClurkan knows that kids love to see how things work and starts the story with a sneak peek into the process of building a tug. In the shipyard, workers—tiny in comparison to Tough Tug—rivet and weld metal plates over an iron framework. In the next spread, Tough Tug is painted, and with a flip of the page, he is launched from a ramp into the sea. McClurken’s cartoon tugs—the older ones sporting mustaches—have expressive faces that register their happiness, fear, annoyance, and acceptance in ways that children will understand and which offer opportunities for discussion. The dark storm that whips the sea into high waves provides just the right amount of suspenseful peril, and as Tough Tug is accepted into the group of older, more experienced tugs, the storm abates and the sun comes out to shine. Tough Tug would be a welcome book for young readers navigating new places or experiences and for those excited by boats and vehicles at home and in classrooms."  ...

"ough Tug is about a brand new little tugboat who is trying to figure out who he is and how he fits in. It’s a story of identity and belief with a great message for kiddos about being the best you can be and operating in your strengths but also helping those around you. Tough Tug could almost operate on two different levels for readers and non-readers because of the complexity of the illustrations (more on that later!) and I was really captivated by the characters and the way they were drawn. Who I Would Give It To: Elementary teachers can all find something to use in Tough Tug. Whether you just want a read aloud with lots of movement or a mentor text for character analysis, this is a fun book!"  ...Literary Fusions

"A feel good story about a small individual overcoming obstacles. Annemarie Braithwaite. NYPL."  ...School Library Journal March 2018

Categories and Keywords