Swoonworthy for train lovers and preschoolers alike.

TWO LITTLE TRAINS

First illustrated by Jean Charlot (1949) and then by Leo and Diane Dillon (2001) and now reimagined by Pizzoli, Brown’s enduring classic follows two distinct trains on their journeys west.

“Two little trains / went down the track, / two little trains went West. // PUFF PUFF PUFF / CHUG CHUG CHUG / two little trains to the West.” Over hills and through rain, snow, night, and wind, the trains—one a steam engine, the other a streamliner—travel. Brown uses onomatopoeia to punctuate the narrative while Pizzoli exploits it to differentiate the two locomotives. He makes every spread a visual play on contrasts, from the different train stylizations and type styles (sans serif for the streamliner’s “PUFF” and serif for the steam engine’s “CHUG”) to the complementary color palettes. The bold illustrations, created with rubber stamps and Photoshop, are done in a simplified style. Accessible, appealing, and understandable, both artwork and text are deceivingly simple, belying the sophisticated nature of each. Lively, rhythmic, and often rhyming text propels trains and readers down the tracks while evocative descriptions work within the confines of a few phrases per page. Skillfully designed and composed, Pizzoli’s cheerful interpretation is thoroughly modern and charming.

Swoonworthy for train lovers and preschoolers alike. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-267651-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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