cover image The Mighty Santa Fe

The Mighty Santa Fe

William H. Hooks. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-02-744432-2

Triumphantly meshing the realistic and the magical, Hooks ( The Three Little Pigs and the Fox ; The Legend of the White Doe ) tells of a boy who is very unhappy when he can't bring his train set to his great-grandmother's house on Christmas Eve. The true-to-life aspects of the tale are evident from the opening page, when a sulking William intentionally kicks the back of his siblings' seat in the car, instigating an all-too-recognizable verbal exchange. At last they arrive at the house of Granny Blue, an eccentric, wizened matriarch, who--like William--is wearing a train conductor's hat. The boy almost forgets about his beloved train set during the evening's festivities, which include an indoor ``winter picnic'' after a snowstorm knocks out the power. Hooks deftly slips the fantastic into his tale when, long after bedtime, Granny Blue awakens William and leads him up to the attic. Here she utters a chant and lifts a sheet covering an old-fashioned village. A train pulls up, and the two climb aboard, embarking on a thrilling ride ``through wind and rain, and sun and snow.'' Thomas's wondrously detailed watercolors masterfully convey the various moods of this inventive holiday tale--and affectingly portray a special cross-generational bond. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)