A trip back in time on a train ride across the country.
Sometime in the first half of the 20th century (judging by the clothing and men’s hats), a coal-powered steam engine, pulling both boxcars and passenger coaches, travels overnight across the country. Romano’s rhythmic poem is filled with repeated sounds, internal rhymes, and evocative imagery. “Locomotive roars to life”; “Wheat fields sway their golden greetings.” Some lines are repeated like mini refrains: “straight and speedy,” “chug and huff,” “squeal and creak.” Debut picture-book artist Soon’s digital illustrations have a soothing retro look and color. They include some lovely twilight shading. But they don’t always quite sync with the story. The train first travels west into the sunset. It crosses hills and plains, passes rivers and farms, races stallions, passes through tunnels, and goes over a bridge into a “drowsy town” by the sea where the sun comes up—still ahead of the train. The artist has added passengers, a family of three, all pale-skinned, to the visual narrative. Father and child enjoy a late cafe-car dinner. Mother loses her hat as she looks out from the open platform on the last car. After their arrival, “Worn conductor yawns and stretches.” The yawning figure in the illustration holds a cup of steaming coffee, which he’d better put down first.
Soothing words and steady rhythm make a solid bedtime story for young listeners who won’t look too closely. (Picture book. 3-5)