A child and his grandma join forces to restore a very special train.
Lonely Jakob is excited to find a battered old rocket in his space station’s hangar, but his grandma is over the moon. “It’s the SPACE TRAIN!” she crows—recalling how in her youth it “crisscrossed the universe on tracks of stardust,” so fast “it made the stars look like streaks in the sky.” Putting their heads together, and with help from Jakob’s robo-chicken, Derek, and the crotchety, work-shy ToolBot, the two labor to restore the hulk…blasting off at last in search of new worlds and, Jakob hopes, new friends. Worthy though this intergenerational plot may be, it wastes a set of spectacular illustrations. Mountford depicts his space-dwelling duo, both brown-skinned and with wild mops of almost luminescent blue (Jakob) or lavender (Grandma) hair, transforming a dim and dusty relic into a breathtaking, bright-orange behemoth with dramatically rakish lines. Views of the angular vessel arrowing through dramatic starscapes or, in one fondly remembered glimpse inside, abrim with a wildly diverse array of nonhuman passengers offer heady promise of interstellar encounters and exotic ports of call. Alas, despite traces of lyrical language in the narrative, that larger promise remains disappointingly unfulfilled.
A decent storyline and better-than-decent art show good intentions—but different ones, which find few if any points of connection. (Picture book. 6-8)