I love the rhythm of this book. It chugs and choo-choos along compulsively, taking you along for the ride. So much so, in fact, that I entirely missed the subtext in the illustrations, which meant I was as baffled as my 4-year-old when the child in the story had lost his belt, his hat, his scarf and his lunch by the time they arrived at the lake.
Sally Sutton is best known as the writer of Roadworks, Demolition and Construction, and her skill with rhyme is wonderful. She is excellent at making just the right onomatopoeic words fit at the right time, and this book rhymes perfectly and naturally, without losing the rhythm of a train.
The illustrations are frosty-looking: you can see the chill in the air with all of the parents and children bundled up warm, and the seals basking on the ice floe. The subtext is cleverly rendered by illustration, and referred to in the words once you slow down and take notice of them! My 4-year-old enjoyed poring over the illustrated endpapers as well, figuring out what all the animals were, and whether they were in fact in the right place.
While I enjoyed the circular nature of the story – train goes to lake, stops, then heads back to where it came from, I couldn’t help being a bit annoyed by the child who decides that instead of having a group picnic, everyone has to go with him back to the beginning because he has lost his lunch (and a few other things.) Trust me, I know kids are like this, but perhaps in an ideal world (the world of books) they wouldn’t be?!
That said, this is a pretty perfect book for kids aged 2-6. Animals, trains, and chugga chugga rhyming text choo choo, what more can you possibly want? This is a rollicking read, perfect for little ones who like to figure out clues as you are reading the book aloud to them, and for those who simply like trains.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
by Sally Sutton and Daron Parton
Published by Walker Books