Soothing words and steady rhythm make a solid bedtime story for young listeners who won’t look too closely.



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)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62414-657-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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