cover image Cecil Bunions and the Midnight Train

Cecil Bunions and the Midnight Train

Betty Paraskevas. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $16 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-292884-1

In this peculiar tale by the mother and son creators of Junior Kroll, a boy finds his way out of a nightmare. At first, the narrator doesn't know that he's dreaming. He boards a shadowy train and sits down among individuals whose horned heads and bizarre facial features resemble party masks. The dreamer's anxiety mounts as he listens to the locomotive: ""She seemed to chant a message as he raced along the track:/ NEVER COMING, NEVER COMING, NEVER COMING BACK."" Help is on the way, however. In the dining car, the boy meets a man in a gray suit and fedora (""Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cecil Bunions./ I'm a private eye and those who know me say I know my onions""). Together, the two humans detach the caboose, and the boy falls through sheep-shaped clouds to his bedroom floor. Michael Paraskevas's foreboding gouaches convey a heightening tension as the slate-gray train hurtles along, its eye-shaped headlamps shining white against a dark blue sky. Betty Paraskevas's rhymes, despite their typically patchy meter, suggest a quickening pace and the necessity of escape. Yet while the two create an effectively surreal atmosphere, they put it to no discernible purpose. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)