An endearing tale of a jovial fellow, trying to do good by the world.


A lovable engineer gets confused and takes a train full of surprises up a mountain.

Granny Bett is feeling blue, so Railroad Hank is a-comin’ to her rescue. But what should he bring to cheer her up? Folk from all around the town give suggestions as Hank and his little red train chug past. Missy May from the Happy Flap Farm says that scrambley eggs always make her smile. Bringing Granny Bett some eggs is a fine idea. But instead of taking the eggs, Railroad Hank loads the chickens onto the train! After all, that is where the eggs come from, isn’t it? And of course, when Cinnamon Cobbler suggests giving Granny Bett a crunchy red apple, Railroad Hank takes the whole tree instead. By the time he makes it up the mountain to Granny Bett, with a string of townsfolk running behind him, his train is about to burst. But that just might be exactly what Granny Bett needs. With a large, rounded chin and kindhearted grin, Railroad Hank’s bumbling nature comes through with affection, not malice. Readers will delight in repeating Hank’s affable reply to each person that he meets: “Okey dokey.” (Impossible not be read aloud in a slow, drawn-out voice.) Plus, the inevitable train sounds will have everyone joining in.

An endearing tale of a jovial fellow, trying to do good by the world. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86849-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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A tiny tug…on the heartstrings.


A perky little tug puts her brawn, and brains, to good use.

“[C]hugging through the waves on the bright blue water,” a little tugboat named Scout starts her day. Whether it’s a container ship, a cruise ship, or a freighter, she’s always there to help. But what’s this? A massive oil tanker’s engine has failed, and it’s headed toward the rocks. Scout tries to help, but the scope of the endeavor overwhelms her. Eschewing the go-it-alone attitude of the Little Engine That Could, Scout realizes that this is one job too big. She calls upon her fellow tugs to lend a hand, showing that sometimes it takes a crew. No doubt young fans of things that float will find much to enjoy, as this cozy maritime tale offers just enough mild thrills to excite without alarm. Adult readers will probably feel even more keenly than their children the danger posed by the drifting oil tanker (particularly when they notice the dolphins, the pelican, the gull, the fish, and even the rather small whale that also inhabit the harbor). They may also note with pleasure that the book’s gendered ships are always identified as female, in keeping with nautical convention. The unchallenging cartoon art featuring anthropomorphic boats pleases without surprising.

A tiny tug…on the heartstrings. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7264-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Four-wheeled fun, if a little unbalanced.


The big trucks work hard all day, and at night they sleep, just like us.

Near the highway, as vehicles “vroooom” by, big trucks are busy building a road. “Digger’s sharp teeth hit the earth. / He’s clawing holes for all he’s worth.” Backhoe “jolts and judders,” making the “whole road shudder.” Dump truck carries away heaps of earth. Grader has a “giant blade,” which “gets the sticky asphalt laid.” Concrete mixer turns sand, gravel, and cement, churning them into the new road’s surface. “Dusty plow truck at the double. / Tips his load of stones and rubble.” Last of all comes “huge road roller,” with big impressive wheels, to give the new highway a smooth surface. There’s a double gatefold at the center of the book, giving a panoramic view of all seven colorful trucks, hard at work. After a hard day, the trucks take the exit ramp off to bed. A good rub with a cleaning brush, a cooling spray, and it’s time to rest. “All tucked safely in their yard / they snuggle down, they’ve worked so hard.” Freedman’s crisp and accessible verse is the perfect complement to Smythe’s bright and blocky illustrations, which have a toddler-friendly Lego or Playskool feel. While construction workers and passers-by of both genders and diverse skin tones populate the pages, all the trucks are gendered male—an odd disconnect.

Four-wheeled fun, if a little unbalanced. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9011-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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