cover image NEW BABY TRAIN


Woody Guthrie, , illus. by Marla Frazee. . Little, Brown/Tingley, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-316-07203-8

Even when the characters are simply lazing on a front porch, Frazee's pictures hum with energy and possibility, in this free-form Guthrie reverie. Her elegant ink striations add texture to the compositions and enhance the understated dynamism of the guitar-toting boy narrator, who "reveals" the origins of babies. "I guess little babies come along/ just about any way they can./ Cars, trucks, tractors, airplanes,/ any way they can come./ But here's the way they might come.../ on a train./ Sort of a new baby train!" As a tribute to Guthrie's role as the Okie balladeer, Frazee conjures a romanticized Dust Bowl–era setting. She employs an impressive array of brown tones and blue accents to create a landscape that feels expansive rather than oppressive; her characters look scrappy, but never dispossessed. The narrator and a trio of tots hitch a ride on the crowded baby train as it swoops through the land, making deliveries of infants to grateful farm couples (the final stop is the boy's own family). Here, as in her Roller Coaster , Frazee rewards the audience with wonderful visual details: A sign on the train's coal car shows a howling baby with the red "No" slash through it; one diapered passenger calmly reads a newspaper to pass the time; a porter moves through the car handing out bottles of milk. Readers will concur with Guthrie that "everyone is gonna be so happy./ All these babies are goin' home." Ages 3-6. (Sept.)