Joe and his mum and dad are vacationing at the Ocean Star Hotel. At first the weather is perfect; Joe gets to learn to swim and visit the boardwalk. The sixth day dawns foggy and rainy and Joe, who looks to be about five, quickly becomes bored. The hotel’s owner, Mr. Robertson, offers Joe a trip around the world. After expressing disbelief, Joe follows Mr. Robertson up to the attic and enters the world of the Ocean Star Express. Mr. Robertson’s miniature train set travels from room to room in the attic, and each new room is a different environment: snow-capped mountains, camel-filled deserts, lighthouse by the sea. They paint a figurine to look like Joe and then place it on the train. When they go downstairs, the rain has stopped. Even after the vacation is over, Joe rides the Ocean Star Express in his dreams. Haddon has created a sweet and simple story that young train enthusiasts will enjoy. They will likely identify with Joe and get into the illustrations of the Express in its many different rooms. However, the text may be too long and lack the pep some of the youngest train lovers demand. Sutton’s illustrations are similar to Christian Birmingham’s from Haddon’s Sea of Tranquility (1996). They are soft, almost nostalgic, but realistic and some feature a giant-seeming Joe behind the scenery. Purchase multiple copies if you’ve got demand—the paperback binding is strong, but won’t hold up like a hardcover. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-00-664600-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins UK/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003


Take strength from the dreamers before you and follow your dreams. Or maybe just roll the dice.

Is it a book about aspirations or the backstory for the board game?

Chickapig is defined as “an animal hybrid that is half-chicken and half-pig” and is depicted in yellow, two-legged chick shape with pink pig snout and ears. Young Joe Chickapig lives on a farm that was his grandfather’s dream, but it’s getting Joe down. He dreams of adventure but needs the “courage to follow his heart. / But how could he do it? How could he start?” In a bedtime story, Joe’s mother shares the influential characters that helped Joe’s sailor grandfather “follow his heart against the tide.” It seems that “Grandpa had heard a story told / Of a great big bear who broke the mold. / The bear was tired of striking fear”—so he became a forest doctor and a friend to all. And the bear’s inspiration? “A mouse who went to space.” The mouse, in turn, found hope in a “fierce young dragon” who joined a rock band. And coming full circle, the dragon found courage from a Chickapig warrior who “tired of shields and swords to wield” and established a farm. Chickapig game fans will appreciate this fanciful rhyming tale illustrated in attention-grabbing colors, but readers coming to it cold will note a distinct absence of plot. Mouse and dragon present female; all others are male.

Take strength from the dreamers before you and follow your dreams. Or maybe just roll the dice. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7944-4452-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Printers Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019


Eduar (Jooka Saves the Day, 1997, etc.) composes here a classic dreamtime walkabout, a wonder quest, that starts when Anatole the bactrian camel begins to read from his “ancient book” and the boy Jules drifts off to sleep between the camel’s humps. Anatole is on the move, swimming the Southern Sea, surfing through crashing breakers, getting lost in the jungle outside Quito, scaling peaks, outrunning lightning. All the while, Jules snoozes peacefully away. Eduar catches the action in rhyme, one sentence to a page, with Anatole’s dashing feats on the left, and Jules’s torpor noted on the right: “Anatole rides bravely along a wire from the trees./Jules is kissed by an orchid-scented breeze.” The artwork is up to the energy and the exoticism of the tale, with great cymbal-crashes of vivid color conjuring a thunderstorm, a foaming sea, a busy street. Despite such charged images, the book works as a lullaby: Jules may bounce around the world, but still he slumbers on. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-531-30202-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1999

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