In this down-to-earth Brooklyn tale, young Steven awaits a visit from his world-traveling Aunt Carolyn. "Once, when I was three, I hid in her suitcase so she would take me with her," the middle-school boy explains. "She was so tickled, she promised to send me a postcard from every place she went until I was old enough to travel with her." Aunt Carolyn has kept her word, and Steven wants to thank her with a truly original gift. When he cannot find a suitable present at a drugstore or a Jamaican culture shop on Nostrand Avenue, a secondhand toy train inspires him: "The paint was peeling off and some of the windows were broken, but I could see it had potential." Like the snapshots Steven glues onto the toy locomotive's windows to transform it into "The Jones Family Express," the elements of Steptoe's (In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall) artwork combine into layered compositions: his rough-hewn collages of an African-American family appear against a background of scattered postcards with exotic stamps and jokey cursive messages. Steven lives with his grandparents, and their house bustles with extended family. The characters' facial features, drawn in colored pencil on cut-out shapes, at times appear inconsistent, yet they match the casual assemblages of paper and photo scraps. Readers may be disappointed not to witness Steven creating his project; the hero's artistic, labor-intensive expression of love is the heart of this book. Yet the warmth of familial bonds emanates from each spread. Ages 4-9. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Steven, our young narrator, is looking forward to the arrival of his Aunt Caroline at the annual block party when his whole family usually gathers at Grandma's house. A constant traveler, she has sent him enticing post cards from her trips. He wants to give her something special. So he sets out to shop, stopping at the Perkins's drug store, and at Ms. Ruby's hand-made objects store, but finding nothing suitable. At Uncle Charlie's, he discovers an old toy train, and works fast to fix it up before meeting Aunt Caroline at the station. She is very pleased to receive the "express" of the title, which Steven has filled with pictures of the whole family. He is thrilled when she promises to take him on a trip of his own. The story is filled with the warmth of togetherness of an African American family. The sentiment is reinforced by the cut paper collage illustrations depicting the active family members amid backgrounds covered by the postcards from Aunt Caroline. A bonus is reading the messages and the descriptions of places on the cards, which also appear on the end papers. Photographs of the local scenes add to the visual interest, supplying contextual details of Steven's life. 2003, Lee & Low Books,
Ken marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Gr 1-3-An engaging, slice-of-life story. Steven, an African-American youngster from Brooklyn, longs to travel the world like his Aunt Carolyn, and he eagerly awaits her postcards from exotic locales. He wants to find a special gift to welcome her home, but nothing in the local shops fits both Aunt Carolyn's style and his $10 budget. With time running out, Steven finds inspiration in a discarded model train. Using paint, family photos, and creativity, he transforms the engine into a vibrant assemblage, labeled "The Jones Family Express." Steven's story, while well told and filled with believable characters, basically serves as Steptoe's model train-a blank slate on which to layer his impressive collages of newsprint, stamps, photos, ribbon, cut paper, and hand-drawn faces. From Ms. Ruby's Jamaican gift shop to Uncle Charles's cluttered basement, the art spills over Aunt Carolyn's handwritten postcards, bustling with the rhythm and energy of urban life. Young readers will identify with Steven's struggle to choose a perfect present and his excitement over Aunt Carolyn's invitation for him to join her travels-but it is the illustrations that will cause them to linger over this book and delight in the colorful details. The collage of personalities in The Jones Family Express celebrates extended family and community in a fresh, authentic way.-Eve Ortega, Cypress Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Steptoe makes his authorial debut in this engaging story about a boy’s special relationship with his aunt. Every summer, Aunt Carolyn goes traveling. Now, she’s returning for the family’s annual block party and young Steven searches for a gift to welcome her home. Throughout, he frames text as if in a postcard or letter and set against a backdrop of his signature cut-paper and mixed-media collage. In the opening spread, photographs and postcards are scattered about; on the left, the boy sits with snapshots pulled from the box beside him, all from his aunt’s travels. As the tale unfolds, family members and neighborhood folks are introduced, including Steven’s grandmother, with whom he lives and Jamaican-born shopkeeper Ruby, whose store comes alive with colorful fabric accents and cut-out photos of beaded necklaces, amber stones, and African art. His character’s faces infuse the compositions with an unexpected realism. In the end, Steven surprises Aunt Carolyn with a gift that comes straight from the heart. And she, in turn, surprises Steven with a gift of her own. A promising new direction for Steptoe. (Picture book. 4-9)