A modern-day book with a classic feel that is delicately flavored with a sweet undercurrent of everyday compassion.

THE LITTLEST TRAIN

A bildungsroman for the toy locomotive set.

A little train spends his days immersed in a lovely life circling his little toy town. But when Mr. Fingers, the hand that controls the little train’s world, accidentally knocks the toy to the floor, a mouse hole provides an avenue for exploration. Once he starts looking around, a series of real trains, from steam locomotives to freighters to bullet trains, show the little toy the wider world. Yet when he wants to return home, he finds the means and the method more difficult than expected. Fortunately a lucky break leads to a happy ending. An afterword provides additional information about each type of train featured in the book. With digital art reminiscent of the woodcuts of old, Gall strives to evoke a bygone era of children’s literature and largely succeeds. The look is complemented by classic storybook language, as in the opening line: “In a small room, down a short flight of stairs, there lived a little train.” He proves himself unafraid to simultaneously summon the awe-inspiring size and power of locomotives and the cozy comforts of a child’s beloved toy. Kids will get a special kick out of comparing the similarities between the toys of Mr. Fingers’ world and the real world the little train explores.

A modern-day book with a classic feel that is delicately flavored with a sweet undercurrent of everyday compassion. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-39286-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

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THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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