Undeniably beautiful but narratively unsatisfying.

TRAINS DON'T SLEEP

A picture-book celebration of several kinds of trains.

Rhyming text opens with a passenger train “puffing, chuffing, never yawning, / Climbing hills as day is dawning.” A little white boy boards the train in the country, and then a black girl does in the city (their dress and the sleekness of the train’s carriage hint at a mid-20th-century American setting), but the book doesn’t merely follow them through the pages. Instead, a freight train pulled by an old-fashioned, black, coal-burning locomotive and then a circus train pulled by a cheerily red locomotive make appearances, and words and pictures work together to depict their separate journeys through different landscapes and in varied weather conditions. That all three of these trains coexist at the same time is indicated by simultaneous depictions of big, midcentury sedans and trucks at crossings and bridges. But aside from this fact and the fact that they are trains, there is little to link the three visual stories. The full-bleed oil paintings provide ample detail of the scenery for each journey, and they employ varying points of view to enhance visual interest. Ultimately, however, readers’ efforts to link the trains’ respective journeys will be stymied, which undermines the book’s cohesion. An illustrated glossary at the book’s end will likely prompt readers to look back at the pictures to identify specific train cars and other things associated with railroads and trains.

Undeniably beautiful but narratively unsatisfying. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-38074-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Engines won’t be the only thing roaring their approval when this book hits storytime.

ELBOW GREASE VS. MOTOZILLA

Who needs sanity when you’ve got family?

The title character of Elbow Grease (2018) and his family of Demolition Derby trucks return to face an all-new competitor. Once again, ’Bo is feeling inadequate next to his fan-favorite brothers. Despite Mel the Mechanic’s encouragement—he’s “the best at getting better”—he wants to be noticed. But instead, he notices someone unavoidable. Motozilla, the monster machine that turns trucks “into crunch sandwiches,” is currently undefeated. Trouble is, you’d need a truck with an array of skills to take him down. Thinking fast, ’Bo makes the wild and somewhat improbable suggestion that he and his brothers join together to form a single supertruck. Will it be enough to take down this bully? Quips, jests, and teamwork are the name of the game as pro wrestler Cena improves on his writing in this second outing, which demonstrates that individual glory falls in the face of concentrated cooperation. Rollicking, radical art portrays the battle in all its gritty glory, mud and twisted metal galore. Human crowds show a diverse range of races and genders, and the trucks’ keeper, Mel, has light-brown skin and wears glasses.

Engines won’t be the only thing roaring their approval when this book hits storytime. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7353-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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