Written by Robert Burleigh; Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Charlesbridge Publishing - October 9, 2018
ISBN 978-1580897174

A passenger train travels to the city overnight in this rhyming picture book. On a wordless opening page, a young rider, seated near their teddy, looks out the window as the train travels in the dark. The train takes off, and then rhythmic words chug along: "Train ride! / Bump-bump. / Chug-chug. Slow. / Faster. Faster. / Off we go." The following double-page spread introduces the refrain: "Night train, night train, hold-on-tight train." Burleigh replicates the initial meter on the next page as the rider takes in their surroundings. As with the other verses, the refrain changes slightly along with the scenery. The visual structure—two full-page panels bordered by white followed by a double-page spread—repeats in sync with the rhythm of the text. Together, the words and pictures help this train run smoothly. One by one, isolated colors (black, red, blue, etc.) pop into the night world, highlighted in the color of the type that spells out the color's name and in some feature in the illustration. Some of the instances of color are quite subtle (for instance, the text's "big blue window" is actually quite small, as it's viewed from a distance), but, at the same time, such details add to the value of the nightscape. Minor's black-and-white graphite illustrations intimately capture the shadows and shapes of the train's night ride, ending in a beautiful full-color double-page spread as night turns to day and the ride is completed, the child and their mother alighting on the platform. A nostalgic, Depression-era nocturne for train lovers.

PreS-Gr 1–A young boy happily travels alone through the night on a steam locomotive in the early to mid 1900s. He is excited by all that he sees, hears, and feels—the black sky filled with white stars, the clanging and dinging of wheels and bells, and the speed of the fast-moving train. There is much to stimulate the senses, and the trip is full of wonder and delight. This rhyming picture book for young children is soothing and cadenced. The lyrical stanzas are short and succinct and printed in a large bold font that accentuates color words. The illustrations, done in graphite with colorful accents added digitally, perfectly set the mood for the midnight journey. The warm colors of the sunrise will envelop readers. Young children who are fascinated with trains will absolutely love this book and ask to read it again and again. The illustrator’s brief note about the Dreyfuss Hudson locomotive at the end is a perfect finishing touch. VERDICT A dreamy, lyrical picture book for young train enthusiasts.

In chalky grayscale art with occasional splashes of color, a steam train from the 1930s and ‘40s (identified by Minor as a Dreyfuss Hudson Locomotive) rolls along through the night while a boy with a teddy bear watches from the train windows. Burleigh describes the sights, writing in a gentle rhythm that mimics the locomotive’s soothing chug: “A barn. A house/ against the sky./ Big blue window/ like an eye.” Illustrations show a bird’s-eye perspective of the train (two Canada geese fly far above) as well as views of the train emerging from a tunnel, passing stations, and riding over bridges. Finally, the boy and bear peer out the window onto a hazy, dawn-lit cityscape. Wendell’s evocative scenes capture the nostalgia train travel and the thrill of a nighttime journey.

After reading the first set of four lines readers will feel the urge to read this book aloud. Robert Burleigh takes the rhythm of riding on a train and incorporates it into each phrase, rhyming the second and fourth words. In-between the introduction of nine colors amid those phrases, a repetition of the four-word title plus additional descriptors further defines the train and travel on this train.

When you look to see the illustrator's name on the front of the opened dust jacket, you realize this is a departure from the usual work of this beloved artist. After reading the book you can't imagine any other medium or style working as beautifully as the graphite on paper and digital choices of Wendell Minor. The limited palette, gray, black, white, blue and yellow, on the front (right) of the dust jacket beckons to us. To the left, on the back, the boy, holding his teddy bear is close to us as he gazes out the train window. Red, white and blue are elements in this view, too.

A textured gray paper (cloth) covers the book case. Along the bottom of the front a train track is embossed. Above this in silver foil is the title of the book. A soft charcoal is used for the opening endpapers. On the closing endpapers a pale yellow announces the dawn.

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