cover image Railroad John and the Red Rock Run

Railroad John and the Red Rock Run

Tony Crunk, , illus. by Michael Austin. . Peachtree, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56145-363-4

Austin's (Late for School ) sepia-toned acrylics amplify the energy, drama and hyperbolic humor of Crunk's (Big Mama ) rollickin', rail-ridin' romp. Lonesome Bob and Granny Apple Fritter climb on board Railroad John's Sagebrush Flyer bound for Red Rock, where Bob is aimin' to get hitched to Wildcat Annie at 2:00. The conductor—who has been driving his train for 40 years—has "never been late once yet!" (which becomes the book's refrain). But as the Sagebrush Flyer "highballed it down the tracks, lickety-whoop and whoopety-lick," trouble looms large, in the form of Bad Bill, "the vilest, orneriest outlaw that ever scuffed up dust." The villain steals John's coal, but Granny wisely suggests stoking the firebox with her red-hot chili-pepper corn-pone muffins, and they're soon on their way again. More trials arise, but Mother Nature comes to the rescue, delivering the train to the wedding site just in the nick of time. The sight of Wildcat Annie doing a handstand on her horse's saddle as she rides up to the chapel will draw a hoot from readers. Crunk's robust narrative moves at a clip to rival that of the Sagebrush Flyer at its speediest. In an intriguing finale, an illustration depicts a boy playing with an old-fashioned model train in an attic filled with items found in the book's artwork (followed by a recipe for Granny's muffins). Kids will eagerly climb aboard for repeat rides. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)