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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A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it.

THE OLD BOAT

A multigenerational tale of a boat’s life with a Black family, written by two brothers who loved similar boats.

In the opening spread, a smiling, brown-skinned adult dangles a line from the back of a green-and-white boat while a boy peers eagerly over the side at the sea life. The text never describes years passing, but each page turn reveals the boy’s aging, more urban development on the shore, increasing water pollution, marine-life changes (sea jellies abound on one page), and shifting water levels. Eventually, the boy, now a teenager, steers the boat, and as an adult, he fishes alone but must go farther and farther out to sea to make his catch. One day, the man loses his way, capsizes in a storm, and washes up on a small bay island, with the overturned, sunken boat just offshore. Now a “new sailor” cleans up the land and water with others’ help. The physical similarities between the shipwrecked sailor and the “new sailor” suggest that this is not a new person but one whose near-death experience has led to an epiphany that changes his relationship to water. As the decaying boat becomes a new marine habitat, the sailor teaches the next generation (a child with hair in two Afro puffs) to fish. Focusing primarily on the sea, the book’s earth-toned illustrations, created with hundreds of stamps, carry the compelling plot.

A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00517-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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