Thursday, January 16, 2014
Train, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper. Orchard Books, Scholastic, 2013. $19.99 ages 5 and up
Elisha Cooper has done it again! This time he's created a book that awes readers with his love of all things TRAIN! The empty train tracks on the front endpapers lead us straight into the hustle and bustle of Grand Central Station, liberally peopled with those who use the train as a means of transportation for many different reasons.
Outside the station and alongside the tracks, we are made aware of those waiting for the conductor to call them aboard, and get the show on the road. This first train is the Commuter Train. It passes through the city, and makes its way to its next stop. There, it yields old passengers and welcomes new. As it waits, our attention is given to the a much larger train...a bright blue Passenger Train. It is speeds past the countryside, the engineer at its helm:
"The engineer sits very still but his fingers are always moving. Pushing levers, turning dials. He taps a blue button - long, long, short, long and the horn blares out..."
As it pulls into its next stop, where luggage and patrons disembark at their final destination, our attention turns to a much slower and hardworking train. It's the Freight Train, and its cars are filled with all manner of products needing to be transported. It makes its way out of the city and crosses the flat expanse of prairie very slowly:
"It rolls past wheat and prairie grasses. Past silos and barbed wire. Past a lone hawk circling under a big western sky. The Freight Train rolls slower than slow. So slow it's hard to tell it's moving. As if the train and the clouds above were having a race to see which can go slower. Slow, sloooow."
Even as we follow its unhurried progress, we meet another train. This time, it's the Overnight Train. Its route is risky with ever-changing weather, long tunnels, and the inky darkness of a moonlit night. In the morning, it makes its way to its next stop. In a flash it is passed by the speedy and streamlined High-Speed Train. It can really fly. When it powers down on its approach to the waiting western station, our cross country adventure comes to an end....unless you read this wonderful book all over again!
As he has done before with a beach, a farm, a ball park, a country fair, a evening's walk and even ice cream, Elisha Cooper gives his readers a detailed look at something familiar and memorable. He makes clear to us how train travel works from one coast to another. In simple text, he welcomes us into the world of trains, their variety and their value to the transportation industry, and to us.
His illustrations are recognizable to anyone who has seen and shared former works. I love the landscapes that somehow manage to dwarf these giant mechanical marvels. He is able to capture for us the feel for each of the trains that he so aptly describes. It's a real exploration, tantalizing our senses with text and image!
A glossary will help young readers with some of the terms used, and an author's note adds even more interest:
'I rode a lot of trains for this book. Many details are taken from real life (like the clock in Grand Central Terminal). Readers may notice that I combined details (the interior of Philadelphia's 30th Street Station with the exterior of Denver's Union Station) and made some up (The San Francisco station is purely imaginary). So this book is accurate, to a point. My thanks to all the train people who helped me."