Friday, December 10, 2010

39. Dreaming of Trains

Legendary Journeys: Trains, written by Philip Steele, illustrated by Sebastian Quigley, Kingfisher, $19.99, ages 9-12, 32 pages. Any child who loves to get stuck behind a train crossing and watch it thunder by will adore this gorgeous, interactive tribute to the greatest trains of all time. Bright, crisp images, each with brief descriptions, fill every two-page spread, similar to a scrapbook, and though the book covers a lot, beginning with the first steam engine and ending with the magnetic suspension Maglev train, the text never gets heavy. Readers bounce along, viewing feats of engineering and keepsakes from the past.
On one spread, they see an antique train ticket; on another, a detailed cross-section of the Paris Metro in 1900; and on another, crews laying the revolutionary Britannia Bridge across the Menai Strait in the late 1840s. But where this book really thrills is in its pull-outs. Every few pages, a pull tab appears on one side of a page beside a train car, allowing you to extend the page to show more railroad cars. One of the most stunning, a replica of the legendary Orient-Express, extends on both sides of the spread to almost five feet. Lay this one on the floor to take in two passenger cars, a coal tender and a powerful 691-class Pacific locomotive on their way through Italy's Milan Central Station. Each of passenger cars comes with lift-up flaps that allow you to peer inside. Under one, you see into a posh wood-paneled sleeping berth; on another, you see Agatha Christie at a dining table writing her thriller, Murder on the Orient Express. The pull-out trains are so grand to look at that if your child gets close enough, he might just think he's heard a faint clackety clack or felt a puff of steam. Pair this book with Rosemary Wells's novel On the Blue Comet for a wondrous gift. Read my Sept. 28 review of On the Blue Comet here!

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