Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Gone 500 Miles When the Day Is Done: Trains Don't Sleep by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum

Rumbling, grumbling, screech and squeal,
Rolling, trolling, wheels on steel.

Puffing, chuffing, never yawning,
Climbing hills as day is dawning.

In the blue dawn of day, a steam train pulls up to a small platform, where a little boy in a railroad cap clutches a ticket and eagerly pulls a parent toward the steps to be the first on board. At the next stop in the city, as a man with his briefcase detrains to greet his family, a pigtailed little girl in a starched yellow dress waves to the boy, already in his seat, as she boards the train, too.

The two share their adventure as the locomotive steams forward, past fields and farms, past forest trees and onto trestles over deep gorges where a single cowboy waves his hat from below.

Canyon sights.
Trains are not afraid of heights.

Through clanging crossing gates, they speed by cars that wait, past sheep who get a wave from brakeman in the caboose, over snowy mountain passes and through prairie grasses, where the two new friends spot a watching jackrabbit in the light of the setting sun. Then, under a full moon, they fly toward a darkened station where only a raccoon, standing staunchly at attention on his haunches, is there to watch the train pass by. And then, again in the dark, the train at last pulls in to another station, their station.

Give the brakes a gentle push.

Goodnight, travelers.
Off to bed.
Dreams await you just ahead.

As the boy stumbles sleepily off the carriage, the girl turns to wave goodbye, but the train, its lighted windows still softly aglow, is already moving on, with promises to keep and miles to go, with miles to go....

Trains don't sleep--they roll away,
Racing toward a brand-new day

The romance of the rails is the stuff of Andria Rosenbaum's gorgeous forthcoming book, Trains Don't Sleep (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). The rocking rhythm of the rails is deftly captured in Rosenbaum's taut and evocative, sometimes onomatopoeic rhymes, and the story, seemingly set in the 1940s, in the misty, nostalgic light of memory and times past, catches the magic of a cross-country train ride for the two travelers completely.

Author Rosenblum's rhythmic, rhyming text is perfectly matched by artist Deirdre Gill's exquisite and elegant oil paintings, with a skillful balance of the human and the mechanical, of closeups and wide-lens views from the passenger train's interior to widespread vistas. With perspective from front and back of the characters and from above the train as it moves through the changing landscape and from below it as it takes the trestle, each two-page spread is filled with details set in lovely vistas. A total tour de force, one set to become a classic of the art of the picture book.

Author and illustrator also give young readers a taste of other trains, a circus train, with its load of dancing bears and poodles in tutus, tigers, and, with a nod to Watty Piper's The Little Engine That Could (Original Classic Edition), a giraffe riding with his head out above the circus car, and a freight train with its tender, boxcars, flat cars, and hoppers. For young trainspotters there is even a glossary, illustrated with thumbnail pictures, of railroad vocabulary.

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