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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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An early-reader book to build on.


An accessible, rhyming text drives this story-with-a-twist about a construction site, inviting new readers to hone their emerging skills.

Initial spreads depict a variety of vehicles engaged in digging, scooping, lifting and so on, detailing the activities of a construction site. Varied visual perspectives in the art draw the eyes to the different machines, but they can be disorienting—particularly in the worm’s-eye view on the spread reading “Digger’s teeth bite the ground,” which does not show the “[t]racks skid[ding] around” as indicated by the text. On the other hand, while some readers may wonder why the vehicles’ operators are not seen in the art, this omission is satisfyingly resolved in a long-shot spread that depicts a group of children playing with toy trucks in a sand pile. The vehicles are clearly miniversions of those from prior pages, and it’s refreshing to see both boys and girls and at least one child of color included in the group “working like a team.” From here, the narrative draws the children’s play to a conclusion by book’s end, providing readers with a fictive parallel to their own accomplishments in finishing the book: “Good work, crew!”

An early-reader book to build on. (Early reader. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-96910-2

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Peanut and Pearl, next-door neighbors and best friends, decide to go on a picnic together. Peanut packs a passel of corn cakes, and Pearl brings a plum pie. When both critters—and, since these are mammals of unreported species, we can only call them that—lead the way in opposite directions, both end up lost. While easygoing Peanut relaxes with his picnic fare, vigilant Pearl looks for her lost buddy, behind the smallest tree, behind the biggest tree and finally by the lake, where she finds Peanut wiping sleep out of his eyes. With very predictable plot and vocabulary, readable font and a humorous situation, Dotlich’s latest is just what new readers need to build their confidence. Alley’s comical illustrations add to the text, helping the new reader figure out any challenging words. An excellent addition to the classic I Can Read series, this is one that will be read over and over. (Easy reader. 4-6)

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-054920-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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