A picture-book celebration of several kinds of trains.
Rhyming text opens with a passenger train “puffing, chuffing, never yawning, / Climbing hills as day is dawning.” A little white boy boards the train in the country, and then a black girl does in the city (their dress and the sleekness of the train’s carriage hint at a mid-20th-century American setting), but the book doesn’t merely follow them through the pages. Instead, a freight train pulled by an old-fashioned, black, coal-burning locomotive and then a circus train pulled by a cheerily red locomotive make appearances, and words and pictures work together to depict their separate journeys through different landscapes and in varied weather conditions. That all three of these trains coexist at the same time is indicated by simultaneous depictions of big, midcentury sedans and trucks at crossings and bridges. But aside from this fact and the fact that they are trains, there is little to link the three visual stories. The full-bleed oil paintings provide ample detail of the scenery for each journey, and they employ varying points of view to enhance visual interest. Ultimately, however, readers’ efforts to link the trains’ respective journeys will be stymied, which undermines the book’s cohesion. An illustrated glossary at the book’s end will likely prompt readers to look back at the pictures to identify specific train cars and other things associated with railroads and trains.
Undeniably beautiful but narratively unsatisfying. (Picture book. 3-6)