Engine, Engine, Number Nine is rolling, rolling down the line, but where is it headed? In this version of the familiar rhyme, the destination is ultimately revealed to be the county fair-a gently comic premise that enables Calmenson (Dinner at the Panda Palace) and Meisel (I Am Really a Princess) to load up the train, stop by stop, with a panoply of human and animal passengers, ranging from a prize pink pig to an entire marching band. The author builds some narrative tension by alternating pairs of simple couplets ("Ducks and geese/ Wait at the track./ Listen to them/ Honk and quack"), with longer strings of rhyming verse that ponder (rhetorically, of course) where the train is going-although it's a good bet that only the very youngest child will be surprised when the mystery destination is revealed. Meisel's bright ink and watercolor drawings depict a sunny cartoon countryside, and here and there his animals exhibit some goofy, human qualities (one sheep reads a newspaper on the train, for example); curving typography reminiscent of rolling train tracks is also a nice touch. All told, it's a cheery, workmanlike effort, pleasing but perhaps a bit prosaic; it may make a bigger impression on an audience younger than the one to which it is targeted. Ages 3-7. (Mar.)
Engine, engine, number nine is rolling down the railroad line to the county fair. Along the way it stops to pick up Bess and her round, pink pet pig, Jake and his mooing cow, Sal's crowing roosters and honking, quacking ducks and geese. When the band and families with giggling children board, the train is jammed with a happy, noisy crowd. After a busy day at the fair, the riders board the train with their prizes. On the way home, the only sounds are the rumble of the wheels on the tracks and the blowing of the whistle as passengers doze contentedly in their seats.
PreS-KCalmenson has expanded the traditional children's rhyme to describe various people and animals boarding the train for a ride to the county fair. Some of the verses are awkward and don't match the meter of the original quatrain, but most adequately maintain the clackety-clack rhythm. The text appears in boxes with train-track borders; the type and the borders are slightly bent to look like a train going around a gentle curve. The placement of the text on top of the pictures is somewhat intrusive, but the design contributes to a sense of movement. The watercolor cartoons have touches of humora duck clutches a prize cup for best quackand are pleasant but bland. Acceptable, but not particularly memorable.Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY