Train and pet enthusiasts alike will delight in this rollicking story about selecting, naming, soothing and caring for a full-sized locomotive.
The information in this “guidebook” is conveyed by a young expert clad in safari shorts, boots and pith helmet, with binoculars strung around his neck; an enormous freight train sits patiently on the other end of his leash. Friends demonstrate what’s involved in pet ownership: A blonde girl with pink fairy wings paints hearts and stars on her passenger train, Sparkles, while an African-American boy observes the dirt a train can track into the house. The recommended method to attract a pet train plays perfectly to kid logic: The tracker awakens early, hiding behind a desert cactus while the engines play. He arouses his subject’s interest with smoke signals, then proceeds to offer lumps of coal, compliments and encouraging “chugga-chuggas.” Rocco’s graphite, digitally colored compositions are a successful blend of striking, painterly spreads (the hero as engineer, speeding through the moonlit night) and humorous cameos. Eaton’s deadpan text allows maximum artistic freedom: “Start with a simple trick…” shows the engine rolling over; “then move on to something a bit harder” depicts Fido jumping through a flaming ring.
With believable expressiveness in the characterizations of the trains and a scale perfect for groups, this affectionate sendup communicates all the exasperation, responsibility and rewards of having a pet. (Picture book. 4-8)