Follow the Track All the Way Back

illus. by Ben Mantle. 32p. Candlewick. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763695736.
PreS-K— Owing a clear nod to The Little Engine That Could , The Little Red Caboose and Thomas the Tank Engine , a little train makes his first foray into the world. When night falls, he follows his parents' advice to "follow the track all the way back." Little Train, clearly a stand-in for his preschool counterparts, chugs along happily, testing his newfound freedom until he reaches the end of the tracks and realizes that it is dark and he is far from home. Remembering his parents' advice, he heads home, where he is greeted warmly and feels ready to explore more the following day. Knapman employs simple text, patterns, and sound effects to "chuggga-chug" the story along and encourage engagement and participation. On Little Train's return trip, he retraces his steps and sounds in a series of panels reminiscent of Michael Rosen's We're Going on a Bear Hunt . Mantle's pastel and digital cartoon-style illustrations employ bright colors and anthropomorphized animals and trains. Little Train is bright red with round eyes, freckles, and a snub nose. Mommy Train is lavender and Daddy is green and sports glasses. Full-bleed spreads move the action along, encouraging page turns, and the saturated dark purples and blues of the sunset at the end of the track evoke an emotional response. There is nothing new here in either the story or the pictures, but that very familiarity is likely to entice young train fans ready to test their boundaries.
VERDICT A perfect preschool adventure, especially where train books are in demand.

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