Climb aboard, with this visual interpretation of the classic 1971 song.
The lyrics of Stevens’ song are the catalyst for this colorful picture book, which depicts a golden-hued train with a plume of psychedelic smoke initially traveling across an unknown and barren landscape. As the train chugs along, a tan-skinned, purple-haired guitar player makes their way to the train and travels with it, sometimes riding, sometimes walking alongside it, as it picks up a racially and ethnically diverse group of passengers. Reynolds’ cartoon illustrations are characteristically bold, the flower-power symbols in the smoke making a cheery if sometimes hard-to-distinguish clutter. As with many songs-cum–picture books, some of the lyrics defy visual interpretation. “Everyone jump up on the Peace Train” is nicely imagined with a cat leaping into the arms of the guitar-playing protagonist, but Reynolds’ accompaniment to the stanza that begins “Now, come and join the living” simply frames it in a close-up of symbolic smoke. In visual answer to “Why must we go on hating? / Why can’t we live in bliss?” the guitar player lays musical notes over a scary hole in the tracks that represents “the world as it is.” The train safely passes, but it all seems awfully easy. Musically inclined caregivers who feel confident belting out the lyrics may find this a useful title for peace-themed storytimes, but the overall depictions of peace and unity feel superficial at best.
Not exactly first-class travel.(Picture book. 4-8)