From School Library Journal
Grade 1-3-An engaging, slice-of-life story. Steven, an African-American youngster from Brooklyn, longs to travel the world like his Aunt Carolyn, and he eagerly awaits her postcards from exotic locales. He wants to find a special gift to welcome her home, but nothing in the local shops fits both Aunt Carolyn's style and his $10 budget. With time running out, Steven finds inspiration in a discarded model train. Using paint, family photos, and creativity, he transforms the engine into a vibrant assemblage, labeled "The Jones Family Express." Steven's story, while well told and filled with believable characters, basically serves as Steptoe's model train-a blank slate on which to layer his impressive collages of newsprint, stamps, photos, ribbon, cut paper, and hand-drawn faces. From Ms. Ruby's Jamaican gift shop to Uncle Charles's cluttered basement, the art spills over Aunt Carolyn's handwritten postcards, bustling with the rhythm and energy of urban life. Young readers will identify with Steven's struggle to choose a perfect present and his excitement over Aunt Carolyn's invitation for him to join her travels-but it is the illustrations that will cause them to linger over this book and delight in the colorful details. The collage of personalities in The Jones Family Express celebrates extended family and community in a fresh, authentic way.
Eve Ortega, Cypress Library, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
PreS-Gr. 3. Steven can't wait for his favorite aunt, Carolyn, to return from her latest trip. A world traveler, Carolyn sends Steven postcards from exotic places. Now it is time for the neighborhood block party, and the whole family, including Carolyn, is meeting at Grandma's house, where Steven lives. Steven wants to give Carolyn a special present. He finds just the right thing at his uncle Charles' house, a battered toy train that he transforms with photographs and paint into a glorious homage to the Jones family. In meandering, colloquial prose, Steptoe tells a warm story about a realistic African American family that bickers and loves even as it is selfish and generous. The thickly layered paper collages show brightly colored family scenes against muted backgrounds of overlapping postcards. Steptoe's rendering of individual faces is uneven: some expressions are subtle, while others are wooden and awkward. But the mix of materials is inventive, and the skillful compositions are filled with action, palpable affection, and the pride Steven finds in his own creativity. Gillian Engberg
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