cover image The Little Engine That Could

The Little Engine That Could

Watty Piper, illus. by Dan Santat. Grosset & Dunlap, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-593-09439-6

This tale of the little engine who cheers herself on in order to rescue a heavy train remains a bestseller almost a century after publication. For its 90th anniversary, Caldecott Medalist Santat pays homage to the story’s original artwork while giving it his own distinctive polish. His usual sizzling energy is gentled here with warm sunlight and big skies. The train cars have a blocky, streamlined look, and he illuminates the scenes with genuine drama, as when the clown pleads with the Big Freight Engine to pull the train, and the huge train, in inky shadow, bellows “I won’t pull the likes of you!” Though the text is dated (“The good little boys and girls in the city will be happy because you helped us, Little Blue Engine”), Santat’s figures are more inclusive, and the clown and bear and the rest of the animals wear expressions that are more warmly animated and engaging than the stiff toys of the original. The Little Engine has the same cheerful light blue smokestack and cow tender, and a diminutive toy airplane shadows the travelers, soaring through the sky as the stalwart rescuer pulls the train over the mountain and down to the city. Her trainlike “I think I can, I think I can” is as compelling a chant as ever. Ages 3–7. [em](Mar.) [/em]