A completely delightful interactive ride on an old train full of surprises.
From the beginning, the top-drawer artwork, filigreed, naïve and with burnished, antique color that gleams, captivates. The subject: An old steam engine with a good complement of wagons (as the English would say) filled with burly men and salamis; bananas and a resident monkey; grand pianos, piggies complete with butchers’ marks; milch cows (across-the-pond English, again); cannons and like entertainments. This provides readers with an opportunity to do some counting, learn some new words—stoker, bolster—and engage with the material. Readers can slide a window up and down or load the cannon to produce a bang of festive fireworks, place baggage into a jigsaw, pull a whistle chain and release a bunch of balloons (and then pop them). The text is curious and inviting, with an eccentric cadence that keeps it this side of child’s play: “And of these wagons there’s forty all told, / I can’t tell myself what they can all hold.” The background music is just that: in the background; merry, but pleasingly so. There is also a frame where the train slips quietly into being a toy train—a bow to the imagination—and then out, once again under steam, to resume its journey.
Children lucky enough to encounter this app will understand why certain adults mourn the demise of the night mail, the branch line and the narrow gauge. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)