THE LAST TRAIN

“Now the tracks that shone like silver, have turned to rusty brown. / Thirty years ago the last train rolled through town.” Steam trains no longer whistle plaintively across America, but this rhythmic paean, based on the author's song of the same name, celebrates their memory. Lyrics that sound perfectly pleasurable when sung can come across a bit maudlin on paper: “Now the flattened copper pennies look like little metal tears / That a railroad cries before it disappears.” (The illustration shows pennies, before and after, flattened on the rails.) Listening to the song beforehand markedly improves the reading of the book, especially lines such as “Ooooh… Midnight Flyer, / Hear that lonesome freight train whistle call.” Minor’s first, lovingly rendered, atmospheric gouache painting shows a modern-day, T-shirted boy gazing at a boarded-up railroad station in Aurora, Ill. Images of a cigar box full of train paraphernalia from two previous Titcomb generations offer more glimpses into the iron horse’s glory days. A treasure for train enthusiasts, but make sure to take in the trailer on YouTube, too (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3caJkMjGLiw). (foreword by Arlo Guthrie, author’s note, Web resources) (Picture book. 3-8)

 

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-164-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off.

TINY LITTLE ROCKET

This rocket hopes to take its readers on a birthday blast—but there may or may not be enough fuel.

Once a year, a one-seat rocket shoots out from Earth. Why? To reveal a special congratulatory banner for a once-a-year event. The second-person narration puts readers in the pilot’s seat and, through a (mostly) ballad-stanza rhyme scheme (abcb), sends them on a journey toward the sun, past meteors, and into the Kuiper belt. The final pages include additional information on how birthdays are measured against the Earth’s rotations around the sun. Collingridge aims for the stars with this title, and he mostly succeeds. The rhyme scheme flows smoothly, which will make listeners happy, but the illustrations (possibly a combination of paint with digital enhancements) may leave the viewers feeling a little cold. The pilot is seen only with a 1960s-style fishbowl helmet that completely obscures the face, gender, and race by reflecting the interior of the rocket ship. This may allow readers/listeners to picture themselves in the role, but it also may divest them of any emotional connection to the story. The last pages—the backside of a triple-gatefold spread—label the planets and include Pluto. While Pluto is correctly labeled as a dwarf planet, it’s an unusual choice to include it but not the other dwarfs: Ceres, Eris, etc. The illustration also neglects to include the asteroid belt or any of the solar system’s moons.

A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-18949-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Fickling/Phoenix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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