Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Mark Haddon & illustrated by Peter Sutton

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 2003
ISBN: 0-00-664600-X
Publisher: HarperCollins UK/Trafalgar

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)