Puff-Puff, Chugga-Chugga

Christopher Wormell, Author, Christopher Wormell, Illustrator Margaret K. McElderry Books $15 (32p) ISBN 978-0-689-83986-3
""I have a funny feeling today will be a busy one,"" the train conductor thinks to himself in the opening of Wormell's (Blue Rabbit and Friends) latest success. And he's right. Hilariously rotund Mrs. Walrus, Mr. Bear and Mrs. Elephant each pour themselves into a car of the train. In town, they virtually clean out the shelves of the fishmonger, baker and greengrocer. Wormell portrays the tiny locomotive as the wooden-toy variety, with open cars in bright colors of red, blue, yellow and pink, linked by tongue-in-groove hitches. The cozy train is overwhelmed by its passengers, precariously balancing their packages. Just when the dwarfed conductor seems to be at the end of his rope, Mrs. Elephant sneezes, hurling the riders and their groceries hither and yon and derailing the train. A distinctly British brand of ingenuity and unflappability in the face of calamity informs the animals' calm response (""It's just a question of leverage,"" says Mrs. Elephant matter-of-factly to the panicked conductor, as she helps put the train back on its tracks). But even readers on this side of the pond will find the resolution witty. Wormell humorously emphasizes the animals' amazing girth in contrast to the toy train's diminutive size, while simultaneously evoking the calm beauty of the Victorian picture book. Every tableau is a feast of elegant, formal lines and patinaed colors. Ages 3-7. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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