cover image Next Stop, Grand Central

Next Stop, Grand Central

Maira Kalman. Putnam Publishing Group, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22926-8

Kalman, whose Chicken Soup, Boots visited people (and dogs) at their jobs, salutes the unsung staffers and commuters who pass through New York City's Grand Central Terminal every day. Mention is made of the train station's ""stupendous star-filled ceilings"" (which also get a sidelong tribute in the endpapers) and the big clock over the information booth, but more attention is paid to the human-scale operations. People dash to and fro, kiss goodbye and hello, and brandish a bagel or a slice of pizza. Affectionate mini-biographies introduce workers (Wanda ""hears 100 complaints a week. Could you hear that many complaints and always be polite? She is""), and in the concourse, adults and kids hurry to various destinations: ""The woman with the blue pancake hat is going to Chinatown to buy Poo Nik Tea."" Passengers board a train run by engineer Mary Donch, and wait for conductor Robert to punch their tickets. Kalman situates her cartoons on a white background, a la Andy Warhol's early illustrations. Nothing is to scale--a gate to a track is tiny next to a person's close-up face--suggesting sensory overload within the vast site. The caricatures are as glib as the tongue-in-cheek narrative voice, yet the author succeeds in recreating the station's frenetic pace and the blurred sense of passersby. Although it is impossible to tell which names and details are imaginary, Kalman's creative reportage conveys the importance of all the individuals whose lives intersect at Grand Central. After all, as the author exclaims, ""It's not called grand for nothing!"" Ages 5-up. (Jan.)