All in all, this alphabet book lacks steam.


Almost every kind of vehicle has been alphabetized in a picture book. This companion to Alphabet Trucks (2013) chugs along, depending on rhyming text to identify the type and purpose of 26 trains.

The opening verse sets the scene: “tear the ticket. / Load the freight. / Sound the whistle. / Raise the gate.” The book proceeds to present the 26 trains, two to a double-page spread from A to Z, and too few take advantage of the layout to create interesting visual juxtapositions. One spread, in which an elevated train travels on tracks supported by uppercase E’s as a freight train passes below, loaded down with both capital and lowercase F’s, is a pleasingly fanciful exception. While some of the train choices are logical, such as bullet trains, narrow-gauge trains, and snowplow trains, many more are a stretch, relying on specific route or train names and even, in one case (Alaska’s Hurricane Turn), an actual stop, to make up the alphabet. The Leonardo Express, which takes passengers from Rome’s airport to the city, the Xplorer train, which links Sydney to Canberra in Australia, and the Yellow Train, which travels through the Pyrenees, are examples of these. The legend in the back cites the origin of each one, a mix of historical and current trains, such as the Jupiter, which was part of the Golden Spike ceremony in Utah in 1869. The Photoshop illustrations ineffectively employ perspective, so people and scenes are flat in appearance and the trains, blockish in style.

All in all, this alphabet book lacks steam. (Alphabet picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-592-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to...


A class visits the pumpkin patch, giving readers a chance to count down from 20.

At the farm, Farmer Mixenmatch gives them the tour, which includes a petting zoo, an educational area, a corn maze and a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Holub’s text cleverly though not always successfully rhymes each child’s name within the line: “ ‘Eighteen kids get on our bus,’ says Russ. / ‘But someone’s late,’ says Kate. / ‘Wait for me!’ calls Kiri.” Pumpkins at the tops of pages contain the numerals that match the text, allowing readers to pair them with the orange-colored, spelled-out numbers. Some of the objects proffered to count are a bit of a stretch—“Guess sixteen things we’ll see,” count 14 cars that arrived at the farm before the bus—but Smith’s artwork keeps things easy to count, except for a challenging page that asks readers to search for 17 orange items (answers are at the bottom, upside down). Strangely, Holub includes one page with nothing to count—a sign marks “15 Pumpkin Street.” Charming, multicultural round-faced characters and lots of detail encourage readers to go back through the book scouring pages for the 16 things the kids guessed they might see. Endpapers featuring a smattering of pumpkin facts round out the text.

Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to many library shelves. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6660-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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A mind-stretching outlook that may help youngsters with change—and will certainly cause them to think.


A cyclical take on life.

Endings can sometimes feel sad or heavy in their finality. But Bender reverses this perspective. In fact, the story starts, as a tiny caterpillar tells readers, with “THE END.” A young tot on a bed closing a book looks puzzled. Bender acknowledges the absurdity. “But wait—how can a book possibly start with the end? That’s ridiculous.” It’s not, once you change your frame of reference. Continuing in a conversational tone, Bender gives examples. Some are personal and immediate: “The end of a disagreement with someone … / is just the beginning of making up.” Others are more abstract: “When you count, the end of one number is just the beginning of the next number… / and so on and so on and so on, all the way to infinity, which, by the way, NEVER ends!” Two friends or perhaps siblings (one with brown skin and brown hair in two Afro puffs, the other with pale skin and straight, black hair) act out the scenarios, which are strung together over the course of a day from one morning to the next. Mayo’s illustrations also dance between concrete and abstract, illustrating disagreement with one kid scowling, sitting back to the other, who looks distressed, next to a ruined sand castle and infinity with an image of the two kids cycling along an enormous infinity sign. In a meta-infused closing, Bender concludes with “THE BEGINNING / (of discovering the next book).” A cleverly placed butterfly flits away. The hazy wash over muted tones gives a warm, cozy embrace to the message. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48.2% of actual size.)

A mind-stretching outlook that may help youngsters with change—and will certainly cause them to think. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984896-93-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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