Big Choo

Stephen Shaskan. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-545-70857-9
Little Choo, a small locomotive, persuades his father that he’s big enough to run on the main line. Big Choo, as he now insists on being called, seems to know what he’s doing—he even expertly tows a line of freight cars. “Chugga-chugga! Chugga-chugga!” he says proudly, and Papa Pufferbelly responds with an approving “Choo-Choo!” But when the small locomotive derails while trying to scale a mountain, his confidence is shaken: “I’m not Big Choo,” he sobs. “I’m Little Choo.” Papa reminds his son that he’s “brave, fast, strong, and smart” (words that Big Choo had previously used to describe himself), and soon he’s back on track. In an afterword, Shaskan (Toad on the Road) cites Virginia Lee Burton as an aesthetic inspiration; her influence can be seen in his swoopy organic shapes and decorative treatment of the landscape, but the backgrounds feel at odds with the cutesy detailing of the trains, which have little emotional range in their expressions. Instead, the narrative propulsion comes from playful typography, the text’s eager tone, and the recurring train sounds. Ages 3–5. Agent: Teresa Kietlinski, Bookmark Literary. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/20/2017
Release date: 02/27/2018
Genre: Children's
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