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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Steam Train, Dream Train, written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2013. $18.99 ages 2 and up

"The reefer car is snug and cold.
Its chilly box can safely hold
frozen treats for every stop,
like a rolling ice cream shop!

The train car's packed.
The crew sits back
and chills out with
a midnight snack."

Do kids today have the same impression that I have of trains? I don't know, but I do know that books about trains remain popular with them. I love the vagabond idea of them, I think...that ability to get on and let the tracks take you to your destination, and a myriad of others along the way.

Kids will immediately be drawn to the fact that this train is peopled by animals, and has a caboose. You don't see those these days. The bed on one of the train cars and the luminous night sky are our first hints that this is a bedtime story. Just look at the soft warmth of the moon's glow on the puffy dark clouds. A dinosaur and a bone...who doesn't want to know more?

And the endpapers...a conductor's striped overalls, or a trainman's hat...memories were immediately evoked for me! The horizontal beauty of the dark night train puffing steam into the cloudy star-filled sky. Are you ready?

"Through the darkness, clickety-clack...
                coming closer, down the track....
                             hold your breath so you can hear
                                            huffing, chuffing drawing near."

We are on our way! The crew of animal workers knows just what to do. Given the signal from the train's engineer, they begin loading freight while enjoying a heavy dose of fun as they fill the cars:

"The hopper's top is open wide,
        so cargo can be poured inside.
              The crew hops to it, one and all -
                     they get to work and have a ball.
Then with a bounce,
a pounce,
a leap,
three boys jump in...and fall asleep."

Just what they are meant to do!

While sure to be enjoyed as a precursor to bedtime, little ones should not miss poring over the stunning artwork created in wax oil pastels by the marvellous Tom Lichtenheld. He fills its pages with vast skies, heady clouds, moonlit animal images and a quiet atmosphere that is sure to entice even the least tired of them to curl up and cuddle into a long night's slumber.

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