CASEY JONES by Allan Drummond


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Age Range: 5 - 7
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Casey Jones, the King of the Iron Horse when the railroads ruled the land, gets polished to a hero's gleam in Drummond's rhymed telling of the stormy night he died. It was a hundred years ago that Casey pulled into the station aboard his Illinois 638, there to get the message from the company to point his train south to Memphis. As the train gets fired up to move through the wild, rain-lashed night, Drummond gives readers a vest-pocket history on the importance of the railroad in binding the nation together (and not incidentally in destroying the Native American way of life; be prepared to do some explaining to young readers here). Once out of town, Casey opens her up: "The train was full of people / from all down the line— / mothers and children / all asleep at the time— / and the milk and the mailbags / from all over the state, / and everyone knew they were / running late." Don't stop to quibble that Casey is being reckless by flying through the dark—“Casey Jones, / he'd never been late"—just be thankful that when he finally sees the flagman alerting him to a stalled freight train around the bend, he manages to save everybody aboard, except himself. You can hear the banjos pickin' in the background to Drummond's verse, which keeps the rhythm of the well-known folk song. His line-and-wash artwork is a transporting thing of beauty, mixing pages of multiple vignettes with double-paged spreads. Sometimes the text is handwritten; sometimes it's typed in the clouds. The variety adds to the bustle. An author's note explaining what little is known of the real Casey rounds out the book. "Wooo . . . oooh!" (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 23rd, 2001
ISBN: 0-374-31175-7
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2001


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