All in all, this alphabet book lacks steam.



Almost every kind of vehicle has been alphabetized in a picture book. This companion to Alphabet Trucks (2013) chugs along, depending on rhyming text to identify the type and purpose of 26 trains.

The opening verse sets the scene: “tear the ticket. / Load the freight. / Sound the whistle. / Raise the gate.” The book proceeds to present the 26 trains, two to a double-page spread from A to Z, and too few take advantage of the layout to create interesting visual juxtapositions. One spread, in which an elevated train travels on tracks supported by uppercase E’s as a freight train passes below, loaded down with both capital and lowercase F’s, is a pleasingly fanciful exception. While some of the train choices are logical, such as bullet trains, narrow-gauge trains, and snowplow trains, many more are a stretch, relying on specific route or train names and even, in one case (Alaska’s Hurricane Turn), an actual stop, to make up the alphabet. The Leonardo Express, which takes passengers from Rome’s airport to the city, the Xplorer train, which links Sydney to Canberra in Australia, and the Yellow Train, which travels through the Pyrenees, are examples of these. The legend in the back cites the origin of each one, a mix of historical and current trains, such as the Jupiter, which was part of the Golden Spike ceremony in Utah in 1869. The Photoshop illustrations ineffectively employ perspective, so people and scenes are flat in appearance and the trains, blockish in style.

All in all, this alphabet book lacks steam. (Alphabet picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-592-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...


Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A slight addition to a seasonal collection redeemed by its striking illustrations.


A dialogic approach to the turn of the seasons.

A young child, with beige skin and dark hair, and a white dog walk through the darkened, snowy countryside. They greet the snow and the winter night; a frozen pond and an empty nest; and even a glass house. Each in turn answers back, offering insight into their experience of the chilly atmosphere. Following a wordless spread that serves as a pictorial climax, the season shifts toward spring, with increased sunlight, warmth, melting snow, and the renewed presence of songbirds and flowers. The world has come to life again, and the child and dog run through green fields sparsely patched with retreating snow. The contrasting color palettes and geometric shapes in the accumulating spreads effectively evoke the stark darkness of winter and the bright warmth of spring. Ground-level and bird’s-eye perspectives of the rural setting and tiny details reward eagle-eyed readers. The rapid change from nocturnal winter storm to bright, green spring day seems a bit contrived, underscoring the book’s premise of transition and metamorphosis. Moreover, the child’s conversation with the natural world at times leaves readers unclear of who is speaking, which may cause confusion during a read-aloud. This is the third book in Pak’s seasonal cycle.

A slight addition to a seasonal collection redeemed by its striking illustrations. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-15172-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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