cover image The Goodnight Train

The Goodnight Train

June Sobel. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-205436-6

Huliska-Beith's (The Book of Bad Ideas) giddy, cartoon-like acrylics blow some dust off a chestnut of a conceit: falling asleep is like taking a magical train ride. The sun has gone down, so it's time for the Goodnight Train to head for Dreamland. ""Find your sleepers! Grab your teddy./ Climb right up! Your bed is ready!"" More workmanlike rhymes chronicle the train picking up speed, hugging curves, then settling into a rhythm so lulling (""Cars sway on the wooden track./ Wheels go click. Wheels go clack"") that even the engine is snoring by the time it reaches its destination. But while the words may slide by, readers will want to linger over the spreads (rendered in night-evoking hues of cornflower blue, purple and turquoise) and pick out the visual jokes and details that have become the artist's trademark. Among the silly sights: a squirrel raids his tree fridge, and a mermaid perches on a rock, applying night cream. Some grownups may cluck that the pictures have too much get-up-and-go to make the book truly soporific, and it's certainly true that the fictional passengers spend many of the pages gleefully bouncing about. But most will agree that the images positively brim with good-natured fun. Ages 3-7.