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William and the Night Train

William and the Night Train

by Kelly, Alison Jay (Illustrator)

All aboard!

Tonight everyone's riding the night train — mothers and fathers, teachers and jugglers — they're all sleepyheads, ready for bed, ready to ride the train to Tomorrow. Everyone, that is, except wide-awake William, who is too excited to sleep. William can't resist exploring the train from end to end, discovering its secrets, until his


All aboard!

Tonight everyone's riding the night train — mothers and fathers, teachers and jugglers — they're all sleepyheads, ready for bed, ready to ride the train to Tomorrow. Everyone, that is, except wide-awake William, who is too excited to sleep. William can't resist exploring the train from end to end, discovering its secrets, until his mother convinces him that the train won't go and Tomorrow won't come until he settles down and shuts his eyes . . .

With dreamy illustrations and a text filled with a rocking bedtime rhythm, this appealing picture book captures the anticipation felt by any child who is setting out on an exciting new journey.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
*"Kelly’s subtle rhymes and gently progressive story, along with Jay’s dreamlike paintings . . . engage children in a fantasy about a train destined for Tomorrow . . . A visually exciting and satisfying story." —Starred, Booklist

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A British team uses a train ride as a metaphor to describe the transition from waking to sleeping in this luxurious picture book. Despite the encouragement of the other passengers--described in a locomotive rhythm ("teachers and jugglers, zookeepers, shopkeepers, writers and fighters, with babies in bundles and piglets in baskets")--"wide-awake William" shows no inclination to drift off. In Jay's (Picture This...) soothing illustrations, bathed in muted earth tones of soft terra cottas and moss greens, William and the other children create mild chaos. The hero runs from the freight car (where circus animals slumber) to the sleeping car (in which feathers fall like snowflakes from the children's pillow fight) to the caboose, until finally his mother cuddles him close and he falls asleep. Kelly's poetic text unspools in a seamless strand, twining scrumptious rhymes (the train's engine "filling the world with billows of steam,/ soft see-through clouds that turn into dreams") with nimble wordplay (William "squirms like a worm"; the train goes "lickety-split, helter-skelter, quick as a streak"). Jay exploits the train metaphor fully, including an engineer in pajamas and nightcap, a recurring sheep motif and a spread of the cars depicted as beds laid end to end, with the train's contents laid out horizontally. Book a ticket for this fanciful ride to dreamland. Ages 3-6. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
William just can't wait for the night train to get to Tomorrow. There's no hint as to why, except for the natural impatience of kids. In a text that includes frequent internal rhymes, sometimes set in lines which march around a picture or that follow the swooping train tracks, we are told that "Everyone sleeps on the night train." Jay's painted scenes are stylized; elongated people have small heads, while objects and settings like the train station and interior are simplified. The visuals seem properly otherworldly, almost toy-like in their innocence, with puffy, cloud-like sheep leaping from the endpapers to appear again once the train starts. William is even shown riding one in the sky with other clouds that "turn into dreams," for only by shutting his eyes cuddled by his mother can he, and all the other passengers, speed out of today and into Tomorrow. This metaphor for sleep is imaginative and esthetically compelling, if perhaps a bit beyond young readers. 2001, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.00. Ages 3 to 6. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-K-Like many children when it comes to bedtime, William is wide-awake. A night train functions as the story's metaphor for sleep. The child and his mother are shown boarding a train alongside a whimsical array of people and animals. Its destination is tomorrow and for William it can't arrive fast enough. This energetic youngster disturbs the slumber of the tired conductor and a variety of other passengers with his kinetic energy. The locomotive, of course, doesn't depart until William's mother convinces him that shutting his eyes is the best way to hasten tomorrow's arrival. Only then does the train begin its nocturnal journey toward the dawn of a new day. More imaginative uses of this motif include Chris Van Allsburg's The Polar Express (Houghton, 1985) and Paul Fleischman's Time Train (HarperCollins, 1994). Additionally, the text is marred by an inconsistent rhyme scheme. Anemic storytelling does a disservice to the innovative illustrations that feature delightfully elongated characters placed in layouts that creatively mirror the external shapes, interior spaces, and movement of the train. It's a pity that the lovely flowing visuals aren't accompanied by an equally smooth narrative.-Rosalyn Pierini, San Luis Obispo City-County Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Even children who, like William, are "switched on like a light" when bedtime rolls around will drift off as the "train that goes to tomorrow" fills up with drowsy travelers: "Teachers and jugglers, sacks, cats, and packages, piglets in baskets and babies in bundles." William's fellow passengers have exaggeratedly wide middles and tiny extremities, as if viewed in a funhouse mirror, but the distortion is more comic than eerie, and suits the illustrations' curves and slanting perspectives to a "Z." Each car features a different arrangement of picture and words: sometimes text runs around the outside, sometimes it separates two-thirds from the rest, occasionally it rests on top of the illustration, and once it is even in the smoke of the train in a full-bleed spread. The train starts up at last; William cuddles close to his mother, listening to her heart and closing his wide eyes. Here they are flanked by a swooping train on the track, as the seat becomes a pasture. The engineer in his nightgown and stocking cap stands at the throttle as the train is "filling the world with billows of steam, soft see-through clouds that turn into dreams." Then suddenly it's coming into the station beneath a rising sun. A truly memorable ride, this ticket to dreamland will be good for many repeated trips. (Picture book. 4-6)

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.82(w) x 8.18(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range:
3 - 6 Years

Meet the Author

Mij Kelly is the author of several books for children. She lives in York, England. Alison Jay lives in London, England. She is also the creator of Picture This, hailed by Booklist for its "spectacular" illustrations.

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