Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chugga-Chugga---Calling All Trains!

Perennial favorite portions of nonfiction sections are "how-to" books.  Students gravitate toward those titles on drawing, cartooning, cooking, origami, seasonal celebrations and making paper airplanes.  Most of the volumes in the pet shelves are borrowed for a good part of the year; taking care of goldfish, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, spiders, frogs, snakes and turtles is of interest to many guys and gals.  One of the most popular areas is learning about cats and dogs;  curiosity for this grows year after year.

There has been a glaring void in one significant area.  For those who have read every single title having to do with anything and everything about trains, nothing, to their dismay, has been written about pet trains.  Pet trains?!  Yes, this little known but highly desired subject has finally with great imagination and in-depth information been addressed.  How to Train a Train (Candlewick Press, September 24, 2013) written by Jason Carter Eaton with illustrations by John Rocco is a manual guaranteed to go straight to the center of  your readers' hearts.

So you want a pet train? Well, of course you do!
Trains make awesome pets---they're fun, playful, and extremely useful.

To start you need to decide which kind of train you would like for your constant companion.  When this decision has been reached, a variety of methods, including the best, for tracking and trapping this monster in motion are offered.  Most paramount is knowing the proper way to get and keep their attention.

Of equal importance is whether they are as immediately attached to you as you are to them. Great thought should be given to your new train's name.  We all know the power in a name.

As the newest member of your family, the train might need extra attention to feel comfortable in its new home; a soothing soak, bedtime stories and a lullaby.  Time, lots of time, is needed to understand your train's likes and dislikes.  What are its favorite games or fears?  Can it learn to do tricks?

As much as you would like to have your train with you every minute of the day, there are times when this is not such a good idea.  You still need to provide social opportunities, the means for meeting new friends, for your train.  When all is said and done, when you least expect it, your train will show you, the only way it can, just how happy it really is.

Every single page in this guidebook is filled with fun, fueled by the inventiveness of author Jason Carter Eaton.  The narrator, speaking directly to the reader, leads us with simple statements toward the ultimate goal of having a loving pet train in our home.  Every possible concern is addressed with a wonderful kind of wit.  It's as if Eaton's inner child is fully alive and well.  Here are a couple of examples.

Freight trains live in the countryside and travel in herds. 

By now your train should trust you enough
to let you ride him...
but he may not trust you enough to ride in the engineer's car yet.
Start off in the caboose.

How can you not want to read a book with a jacket and cover like this?  It makes you want to head out to the nearest spot frequented by trains to experience the same joy as the three children riding their pet trains.  Opening the cover and turning the endpapers, gives readers a sneak peek at the book's narrator, a guide in safari hat and clothes, on top of a locomotive, bucking like a bronco.   The double-page title page showcases three different trains at rest inside a roundhouse.

Rendered in graphite with digital coloring, the animated illustrations of John Roco interpret the narrative with rip-roaring playfulness.  His double page, single page and smaller illustrations framed in white, compel readers to keep turning the pages as surely as the text does.  We want to see what Jason Carter Eaton has to say and how John Rocco will visualize it.

You have to appreciate the shifts in perspective; the close-up of the guide on the first two pages, holding a leash with a "Fido" tag at the top, large locomotive wheels in the background or the panoramic view of the western desert as the guide sends up smoke signals to attract a train's notice.  The personalities given to each train, their "facial" features, are impeccable.  Two of my favorite illustrations are of the boy with his teddy bear sitting on the train's cow-catcher reading a book by the train's headlamp and the three boy's playing a train song to help a new friend drift off to dreamland. The boys are playing country instruments, a banjo, a washboard and a jug.  These are absolutely charming.

I'm not sure how many readers want a pet train but I can guarantee after reading How to Train a Train written by Jason Carter Eaton with illustrations by John Rocco, you might be seeing trains showing up on children's wish lists.  Give this book to readers who love trains.  Give this book to readers who love pets.  Give this book to readers who love good storytelling, a picture book with text and pictures working together in faultless harmony.

Please follow the link embedded in John Rocco's name above to his website.  Here is a link to the publisher's website for a Q & A With Illustrator John Rocco.  This links to A Note From Author Jason Carter Eaton at Candlewick Press.  Check out this interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Enjoy the book trailer, then make sure to have this book handy for reading.


Pair this title with Brian Floca's Locomotive and Elisha Cooper's Train.

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