cover image Clickety Clack

Clickety Clack

Robert Spence. Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-87946-5

Buoyant and full of childlike fun, this first book for the husband-and-wife authors as well as the illustrator takes a simple premise and goes full steam ahead. Cumulative verse introduces a train's posse of passengers, all of them noisy: ""Elephants stomp in two big packs/ And the troupe of ducks goes quack quack quack/ While dancing around the acrobats/ Who sing on the cars with talking yaks,/ And a red caboose is in the back/ Of the little black train going down the track./ Clickety clack, clickety clack."" Mayhem threatens when two mischievous mice light fireworks on the roof of the caboose--but Driver Zach quickly restores order (and quiet) by telling everyone to ""pipe down"" or ""we'll change our tack./ We'll stop going forward... and we'll head right back."" Spengler, having made the most of the passengers' high jinks, brings fun even into the silencing sequence. The ducks hold wings to beaks, as if whispering ""Shh!"" and the assembly appears just to be biding time until the next uproar (the final scene shows a third prankish mouse scrambling to join the train). The deeply saturated colors recall the intensity of Robert Bender's illustrations, but the lines are looser and the compositions have their own puckish sensibility. Kids will enjoy the good-natured decrescendo just as much as the invitation to turn up the volume. Ages 4-8. (May)