cover image NICCOLINI'S SONG


Chuck Wilcoxen, , illus. by Mark Buehner. . Dutton, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46805-9

In his picture-book debut, Wilcoxen explores the quieter side of the great train engines and delivers an unusual bedtime story. As night watchman at the rail yard, Niccolini is alert to even the smallest sound, keeping careful vigil over the locomotives in his charge. But he soon learns that the trains have ears, too, and they ask him to sing "something low and sweet" so they can rest and not worry about the work awaiting them. Niccolini's train lullabies waft beyond the rail yard, and his voice also soothes restless children, crying babies and tired parents who walk the pathway from the nearby city to listen. When a windy night puts the city folk on edge, Niccolini and the locomotives find a unique way to join forces and bring them tranquility. Young readers will enjoy the gentle rhythms of this story, but may need a little help imagining what Niccolini's song actually sounds like. Buehner (Snowmen at Night ) showcases his talent for depicting evening scenes awash in moonglow and shadow. With the strong, sturdy trains, he achieves a satisfying blend of structural accuracy and slight anthropomorphism, adding a bit of a twinkle to the proceedings without getting corny. And in his signature style, the artist provides animals and animal shapes (in clouds and trees) on many of the pages for eagle-eye readers to discover. Ages 4-up. (Sept.)