THE LAST TRAIN

“Now the tracks that shone like silver, have turned to rusty brown. / Thirty years ago the last train rolled through town.” Steam trains no longer whistle plaintively across America, but this rhythmic paean, based on the author's song of the same name, celebrates their memory. Lyrics that sound perfectly pleasurable when sung can come across a bit maudlin on paper: “Now the flattened copper pennies look like little metal tears / That a railroad cries before it disappears.” (The illustration shows pennies, before and after, flattened on the rails.) Listening to the song beforehand markedly improves the reading of the book, especially lines such as “Ooooh… Midnight Flyer, / Hear that lonesome freight train whistle call.” Minor’s first, lovingly rendered, atmospheric gouache painting shows a modern-day, T-shirted boy gazing at a boarded-up railroad station in Aurora, Ill. Images of a cigar box full of train paraphernalia from two previous Titcomb generations offer more glimpses into the iron horse’s glory days. A treasure for train enthusiasts, but make sure to take in the trailer on YouTube, too (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3caJkMjGLiw). (foreword by Arlo Guthrie, author’s note, Web resources) (Picture book. 3-8)

 

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-164-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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TIME FOR SCHOOL, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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