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The Jones Family Express Hardcover – April 1, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
  • Lexile Measure: 640L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books; 1st edition (April 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584300477
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584300472
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 9.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,033,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There aren't many picture books out there that contain illustrations where the main character and his brother are seen protecting their delicious pancake breakfasts from a voracious hungry uncle. "The Jones Family Express" is one of the few. Which is to say, it's the rare book that shows family relations in a realistic, yet affectionate, way. Javaka Steptoe has a style and voice that is uniquely his own. In this particular book, he creates a living breathing urban family environment, the like of which has not been seen since the heyday of those marvelous Ezra Jack Keats stories. Here we have a great story, in an innovative package.

Steven awaits, with baited breath, the postcards his world traveling aunt sends him whenever she goes away. For years he's lived through Aunt Carolyn's adventures second-hand, and at long long last she's coming to visit her favorite nephew and his family. That means it's time to party. While the rest of his family prepares for a delicious street barbecue, Steven frets over finding his aunt the perfect welcome-home gift. When at last he enlists the help of his money-happy Uncle Charles ("he wouldn't do anything unless you paid him") he finds a present that his aunt can truly love for all time. And in the end, Aunt Carolyn gives Steven the one thing he's always wanted.

I was pleased with the arc of the story, especially the wide range of characters brought to vivid life through Steptoe's descriptions. There's Steven's little cousin Sean who keeps him awake at night with questions like, "Why do dogs like dog biscuits?". There's Mr. Perkins, owner of Perkins Drugstore, with a voice like nails scratching on a chalkboard.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on June 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Jones Family Express is a warm-hearted picture book written by Javaka Steptoe. His engaging text is uniquely brought to life with full-color illustrations of paper collages. In The Jones Family Express, Steven is a young African-American boy who is stumped trying to think of the perfect gift for his beloved, globe-traveling Aunt Carolyn during the annual block party. Steven learns that the best gifts of all come from the heart, in this emotional and highly recommended picture book story for young readers ages 4 to 9.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Sack VINE VOICE on October 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Steven Jones loves his Aunt Carolyn. She travels all around the world and always send him postcards from the places that dhe travels. His aunt promises Steven that when he is old enough he can go on a trip with her. He can't wait for that day! His aunt is coming home for a visit and he wants to give her the perfect gift. He only has $10.00 and can't find anything good enough for her. He decides to redo an old toy train with pictures of his family as his gift. His aunt and the rest of the family love the "Jones Family Express"! At the end of her visit Aunt Carolyn gives Steven a postcard. The postacard is inviting him on a trip with her!

The illustrations are done is collage style. They are fun to look at and keep the reader interested in the story.

The book would make a great read aloud to children during a unit on trains, travel and family.
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