Casey Jones

Allan Drummond, Author, Allan Drummond, Illustrator Farrar Straus Giroux $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-31175-9
Heroic train engineer Casey Jones gets star treatment in this spirited picture book. ""Listen!/ DWant to hear the story of Casey Jones?"" begins Drummond (who adapted Melville's Moby Dick into a picture book). Related by two of Jones's African-American co-workers, engine wiper Wallace Saunders and fireman Sim Webb, the verses whisk readers back in time to when the railroad ""was the mightiest thing,/ and the loco engineer/ was the Iron Horse King."" They set the stage for the fateful night when Casey couldn't avert a train wreck but stayed faithfully at his post and gave his own life to save his passengers. ""He slammed on the air brakes,/ and pulled reverse gear,/ then he hung on to the whistle pull/ till all you could hear.../ ...was the screaming of the hooter.../ the wail of the brakes.../ and a terrible explosion/ that made everything shake."" Drummond's vigorous quatrains start slowly, then pick up steam as they chug steadily forward, fueling a first-rate read-aloud. His pen-and-ink images washed with invigorating swathes of color echo the rhythms of the narrative: spot art fills in details not covered by the text (e.g., Wallace and Sim's roles; historical developments brought on by rail travel) while full-bleed spreads portray everything from sprightly vistas to the dark, dramatic chaos of the wreck itself. Hop aboard for an encomium to the railroad and one of its greatest heroes. Ages 5-up. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
Genre: Children's
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