cover image Engine Engine Number Nine

Engine Engine Number Nine

Stephanie Calmenson, Paul Meisel. Hyperion Books, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0155-8

Engine, Engine, Number Nine is rolling, rolling down the line, but where is it headed? In this version of the familiar rhyme, the destination is ultimately revealed to be the county fair-a gently comic premise that enables Calmenson (Dinner at the Panda Palace) and Meisel (I Am Really a Princess) to load up the train, stop by stop, with a panoply of human and animal passengers, ranging from a prize pink pig to an entire marching band. The author builds some narrative tension by alternating pairs of simple couplets (""Ducks and geese/ Wait at the track./ Listen to them/ Honk and quack""), with longer strings of rhyming verse that ponder (rhetorically, of course) where the train is going-although it's a good bet that only the very youngest child will be surprised when the mystery destination is revealed. Meisel's bright ink and watercolor drawings depict a sunny cartoon countryside, and here and there his animals exhibit some goofy, human qualities (one sheep reads a newspaper on the train, for example); curving typography reminiscent of rolling train tracks is also a nice touch. All told, it's a cheery, workmanlike effort, pleasing but perhaps a bit prosaic; it may make a bigger impression on an audience younger than the one to which it is targeted. Ages 3-7. (Mar.)