Perfectly charming, but with little to distinguish it from other bedtime trains in the field, perhaps it is time to put this...

THE GOODNIGHT TRAIN ROLLS ON!

From the The Goodnight Train series

It is one thing to put a child to sleep. It is another thing entirely to keep them there.

In this unnecessary sequel to Sobel and Huliska-Beith’s The Goodnight Train (2006), the stalwart locomotive of dreams attempts the near-impossible task of keeping its passengers recumbent. The rhythmic clacking text is back, with its soothing “Chugga! Chugga! Shhhhhhh! Shhhhhhh!” Unfortunately, a smooth journey this is not. There are naughty sheep to negotiate (counting them helps), a moon that’s just too darn bright, and an unexpected detour over Wild Dream Hill, all of which threaten to waken the sleepers. Undaunted, the train goes on, lulling as it does, until the morning light appears. All curves and purple skies in its languid art, the book makes some bold choices, as when it demands a 90-degree turn to open vertically, suggesting the height of a steep hill. That said, this book fails to reach the soporific heights of its predecessor, making it less a book for urging young eyelids to close and more a storytime adventure. There are plenty of fun details to find hidden in the mix, though it is unlikely that this is a book that will be requested for multiple readings.

Perfectly charming, but with little to distinguish it from other bedtime trains in the field, perhaps it is time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-50019-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message.

ELBOW GREASE

If it first you don’t succeed, try getting hit by lightning.

The smallest of his four brothers, Elbow Grease is an electric-powered monster truck with big dreams. Each one of his brothers is tougher, faster, smarter, or braver than he is, but at least he’s got enough “gumption” to spare. That comes in handy when he rushes off to join a Grand Prix in a fit of pique. And while in the end he doesn’t win, he does at least finish thanks to a conveniently placed lightning bolt. That inspires the true winner of the race (Elbow Grease’s hero, Big Wheels McGee) to declare that it’s gumption that’s the true mark of a winner. With his emphasis on trying new things, even if you fail, Cena, a professional wrestler and celebrity, earnestly offers a legitimately inspiring message even if his writing borders on the pedestrian. Fortunately McWilliam’s illustrations give a great deal of life, emotion, action, and mud splatters to the middling text. Humans are few and far between, but the trucks’ keeper, Mel the mechanic, is pictured as a brown-skinned woman with glasses.

Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7350-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Slight and contrived.

LITTLE TACO TRUCK

A little orange food truck parks in the same place every day, bringing tacos to hungry construction workers—till one morning, a falafel truck takes his spot.

Miss Falafel then brings by more of her friends, crowding out the taco truck. Little Taco Truck whines and cries, but after four days of being shut out by the bigger trucks, he finally takes the initiative. He spends the night in his former parking space, defending his territory when the other trucks arrive. The rest immediately apologize, and after some creative maneuvering, everyone fits—even the newly arrived noodle truck. Valentine’s naïve call for cooperation glosses over the very real problem of urban gentrification represented by the flood of bigger and better-equipped trucks taking over the neighborhood. When the taco truck is the only game in town, the food line consists of hard-hatted construction workers. Then, as falafel, arepa, gelato, hot dog, and gumbo trucks set up shop, professionals and hipsters start showing up. (All the customers are depicted as animals.) The author also inadvertently equates tacos with a lack of sophistication. “ ‘Hola, Miss Fal…Fal…’ Little Taco Truck tried to sound out the words on the side of the other truck.” Sadly, the truck sells Americanized crisp-shelled tacos. Even the glossary ignores the culinary versatility and cultural authenticity of the soft taco with this oversimplified and inaccurate definition: “A crispy Mexican corn pancake folded or rolled around a filling of meat, beans, and cheese.”

Slight and contrived. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6585-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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