Trains are one of those items that exert an intrinsic fascination, like campfires and ocean waves or Rex’s earlier subjects in My Fire Engine (1999) and My Race Car (2000). They’re even more amazing when you know exactly what they do, and that’s why Rex’s paint-box-bright, easy-to-understand picture book works. An African-American boy is playing with his electric train set when he has an out-of-body experience, becoming the engineer of a freight train. He explains what the different cars carry: gondola cars and piggyback cars, flatcars and livestock cars, and the ever-wonderful caboose. He goes on to tell what the cargo will be used for: gravel to make roads, the furniture and appliances will go to the department store, pipes are destined for construction projects, and the piggybacked trailers are hitched to trucks for additional shipping. And it is nice to imagine that those cows and chickens are headed for homes at farms rather than the slaughter yard. The amount of activity on each page keeps the story vibrant and though the text has a measure of dryness—“The ice cream and bologna are also unloaded. They will go to the supermarket”—everything makes perfect sense. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8050-6682-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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Captioned by Prince’s very brief, loosely rhymed commentary (“Wheels whiz, wheels whir. / Wheels carry travelers.”), Laroche’s expert paint-and-cut-paper collages, on a variety of page layouts, depict all sorts of people using wheels of all sizes at work and play. For “Wheels help to make us go,” they are attached to wagon, wheelchair, stroller, car and bike. They can be spinning on playgrounds (“wheels spin”) and windmills; propelling a helicopter (“Wheels twirl”), inline skates (“Wheels roll”) swinging beneath a tree branch, spinning within machinery or, in the most spectacular of the scenes, “Wheels soar into the sky” as a Ferris wheel carries bright-colored cars upside down and over. Wheel this in after or instead of Shelley Rotner’s photographically illustrated Wheels Around (1995), and leave preschool audiences’ heads a-spin. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 22, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-56307-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force.

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A young boy yearns for what he doesn’t have, but his nana teaches him to find beauty in what he has and can give, as well as in the city where they live.

CJ doesn’t want to wait in the rain or take the bus or go places after church. But through Nana’s playful imagination and gentle leadership, he begins to see each moment as an opportunity: Trees drink raindrops from straws; the bus breathes fire; and each person has a story to tell. On the bus, Nana inspires an impromptu concert, and CJ’s lifted into a daydream of colors and light, moon and magic. Later, when walking past broken streetlamps on the way to the soup kitchen, CJ notices a rainbow and thinks of his nana’s special gift to see “beautiful where he never even thought to look.” Through de la Peña’s brilliant text, readers can hear, feel and taste the city: its grit and beauty, its quiet moments of connectedness. Robinson’s exceptional artwork works with it to ensure that readers will fully understand CJ’s journey toward appreciation of the vibrant, fascinating fabric of the city. Loosely defined patterns and gestures offer an immediate and raw quality to the Sasek-like illustrations. Painted in a warm palette, this diverse urban neighborhood is imbued with interest and possibility.

This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-25774-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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