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by Donald Crews
     
 

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The train tracks ran right by Bigmama's house in Cottondale, and the children were warned to stay off the tracks. But one night they were late, and the tracks were a shortcut, so they started off. And when there was no turning back, they heard the train coming. "Perhaps his finest achievement to date....A slice-of-life, tension-filled drama for picture-book readers.

Overview

The train tracks ran right by Bigmama's house in Cottondale, and the children were warned to stay off the tracks. But one night they were late, and the tracks were a shortcut, so they started off. And when there was no turning back, they heard the train coming. "Perhaps his finest achievement to date....A slice-of-life, tension-filled drama for picture-book readers....The pacing of text and illustrations is perfect."—Horn Book.

Author Biography: Donald Crews is the renowned creator of two Caldecott Honor books, Freight Train and Truck. Among his other enormously popular books are such favorites as Night at the Fair, Sail Away, Bigmama's, Shortcut, and School Bus. He and his wife, Ann Jonas, live in New York's Hudson River Valley.

Donald Crews grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and says that all through his childhood the members of his family were always doing something with their hands. He was always drawing pictures. Now, in the old farmhouse where he lives with his wife, the noted author and illustrator Ann Jonas, Donald Crews is still drawing pictures.

After graduating from New York City's Cooper Union, Mr. Crews spent three years working as a designer. He was assistant art director of Dance magazine, on the staff of a small design studio, and did freelance work as a book-jacket designer. But in 1962 he was inducted into the Army, and for a time his artistic pursuits were set aside. As the end of his eighteen-month military stint in Germany approached, he assigned himself to the task of writing and illustrating a children's book to add to his portfolio. The result was the brilliant concept book We Read: A to Z(Harper & Row, 1967), which, nearly twenty years later, was reissued by Greenwillow Books. Ten Black Dots, a counting book, came next, and then several books for which he did illustrations only. But the turning point came in 1978, when Greenwillow published Freight Train, a picture book inspired by Mr. Crews's childhood train trips from Newark to visit his grandmother in Florida. It was named a Caldecott Honor Book. Since then, Mr. Crews has created several other highly acclaimed picture books (including Truck, a 1981 Calclecott Honor Book), all painted in the flat, clean colors and bright, unambiguous shapes that are the hallmarks of his striking graphics.

Donald Crews grew up in Newark, New Jersey, spent his summers in Cottondale, Florida, and was graduated from Cooper Union in New York City. He and his wife, Ann Jonas, live in Brooklyn, New York.

When Donald Crews is asked why he focuses on picture books, he frequently answers, "Why not?" All the tools necessary for the creation of any piece of art are also elements in a successful picture book. Mr. Crews chooses a subject, explores ways to develop the subject visually, writes a story, then produces his finished illustrations. And the final audience, the children, tell him that they like what he does. Why not, indeed!Donald Crews grew up in Newark, New Jersey, spent his summers in Cottondale, Florida, and was graduated from Cooper Union in New York City. He and his wife, Ann Jonas, live in Brooklyn, New York.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A group of children get the thrill of a lifetime when they decide to cut short their walk home in Crews's new picture book. Though they know the freight train might round the bend momentarily, the kids opt for playing along the tracks instead of walking on their familiar route. Charged with excitement, the escapade turns to fullblown alarm when the train whistle sounds, sending the youngsters scrambling to safety at the last minute. Crews's economical text deftly explores a roller coaster ride of emotion in just a few paragraphs, highlighted with effective onomotopeia-Whoo wh(,o; klackity, klackity, klack. The underlying childlike sensibilities here-taking a risk to the limit, for example-authenticate the author's voice throughout. The story, an extension of the characters first introduced in Crews's nostalgic Bigmama's, is a perfect foil for the artist's masterful renderings of trains. A predominantly warm, earthy palette sets a serene and playful mood at the outset, followed by several dark, wordless spreads that show freight cars rushing past, ready to speed right off the page. Scenes portraying the frightened children are equally effective in this out of the ordinary drama set forth with uncommon artistry. Ages 4-up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Beverly Kobrin
Artist/author Donald Crews lovingly portrays the halcyon summers of his youth, when his mom, brother, and sisters visited his Bigmama's (grandmother's) home in Cottondale, Florida. At the end of one summer day, Mr. Crews and his siblings opted to take a shortcut to Bigmama's via the railroad tracks instead of the road. That trip was one they never forgot-or told anyone about, it was so terrifying. Little ones will enjoy the vicarious experience from the safety of your side as, reading aloud, you turn the pages and they hear and watch the train near, klakity-klakity-klakity-klak by, and finally pass with, luckily, no harm done. 1996 (orig.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-- Crews relates an incident from his childhood in this reminiscence of seven young black children in a rural setting who collectively decide to take a shortcut home along some train tracks. As they play, there are small indications that trouble is not far away. The talented author/illustrator effectively uses type size, onomatopoeia, and a darkening scene lit up by the approaching train light to create a sense of building tension and release. As the train rumbles by, there are five double-page spreads given over to closeups of the cars rolling along. Slightly out of focus, they give the sense of motion. Visually and aurally, readers will vividly feel the sensation of a freight train moving by and be relieved at its passing. Crews's almost-cartoon drawings of the children seem awkward and out of place against his smooth renderings of the train and scenery. But in this instance, this technique works to the story's advantage, for the children are out of place, in the wrong place at the wrong time. --Judith Gloyer, Milwaukee Public Library
Carolyn Phelan
Late getting started back to Bigmama's house, seven kids of assorted ages make the sort of decision that might make sense to a group of children at dusk: "We should have taken the road. But it was late, and it was getting dark, so we started down the track." On the very next page, as the kids follow the railroad tracks, the word "whoo" appears in small, shadowed letters, signaling a distant train's approach. This warning note gets larger and louder with each turn of the page, until the children leap aside and a freight train thunders across five double-page spreads. In the denouement, the children walk home to Bigmama's silently, in the dark. Watercolor and gouache paintings in dusky hues stretch across the wide, horizontal pages. Beautifully crafted from cover to cover, this picture book combines simplicity of sounds and forms with subtlety of expression. As in "Bigmama's" , Crews touches a chord that sets up an emotional resonance, conveying more than the events, more than the sights, more than the words.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780688064365
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/28/1992
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
239,855
Product dimensions:
9.87(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.25(d)
Lexile:
AD210L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Donald Crews is the renowned creator of many celebrated children's books, including the Caldecott Honor Books Freight Train and Truck. He and his wife, Ann Jonas, live in New York's Hudson River Valley.

Donald Crews es el renombrado autor de dos libros merecedores del premio Caldecott, Tren de carga (Freight Train) y School Bus. Vive con su esposa, Ann Jonas, cerca del Río Hudson, en Nueva York.

Donald Crews is the renowned creator of many celebrated children's books, including the Caldecott Honor Books Freight Train and Truck. He and his wife, Ann Jonas, live in New York's Hudson River Valley.

Donald Crews es el renombrado autor de dos libros merecedores del premio Caldecott, Tren de carga (Freight Train) y School Bus. Vive con su esposa, Ann Jonas, cerca del Río Hudson, en Nueva York.

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Shortcut 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I've seen for the kindergarten and first grade crowd. Language skills, moral of the story, why to follow rules, and so much more! My children loved it and asked that I read it to their class!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a fabulous book to use as a way to teach young children about good writing. There are lessons to be learned about sound words (onomatopoeia), using all capitals to emphasize a moment, creating tension and suspense, memoire, using the ellipsis (those three dots...) to make the reader pause, and MUCH more! I highly recommend this book!