cover image Down by the Station

Down by the Station

Will Hillenbrand, Hillenbran. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201804-7

Hillenbrand's (The Golden Sandal) whimsical interpretation of a familiar song offers preschoolers a ticket to ride on an enjoyable excursion through a children's zoo. As an engineer makes repeated stops along the tracks, baby animals board a rainbow-tinted train. Each adds his or her own sound to the cumulative refrain: ""Puff, puff,/ Toot, toot,/ Off we go!"" from ""Thrump, thrump"" for the elephant calf to ""Flip, flop"" for the seal pup, building up a symphonic chorus that begs for audience participation. Hillenbrand shapes the simple song into a full-bodied story with a visual narrative populated by characters such as a kangaroo joey that jumps rope and a monkey that rescues a woman in the alligator pond via an upturned umbrella. The artwork foreshadows the creatures to come (e.g., a sign pointing to ""Seal Island"" appears on the spread before the seal pup's introduction), and the lyrics point up the unusual names of the animal offspring. Softly shaded but brightly colored, Hillenbrand's mixed media illustrations embrace an abundance of droll detail and gently outline landscapes in which the sky gradually changes from the pink hues of early morning to a glorious blue studded with cotton-candy clouds. All aboard for fun. Ages 3-6. (Sept.)