Customer Reviews: Trouble on the Tracks
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars12
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on September 26, 2001
"All aboard! Next stop, Black Paw Crossing!" The engineer makes his final train check, a few last minute passengers climb aboard, the conductor gives the all-clear and we're off. The train pulls away from the station and begins its journey across the countryside. Oh Oh...looks like there's trouble ahead on the tracks. That's Trouble with a capital T, because Trouble is the "engineer's" cat. A cat who likes to "upend" trees, "trample" houses and "derail" TOY trains..... Kathy Mallat has authored a charming picture book with a clever twist that will delight and amuse your little engineer. Her spare, simple text takes a backseat to the beautifully bold and colorful artwork that really tells the story and youngsters will love poring over all the marvelous detail in each picture. Trouble On The Tracks is just right for pre-schoolers and emerging readers and is a story all young train lovers will want to read again and again.
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Even the cover is deceiving.

We see a big black and red locomotive steams towards a dark tunnel, but as "Trouble" gradually reveals, all is not as it seems in this cleverly surprising book. There are sly hints about the real setting, but adults and kids alike will be distracted by Kathy Mallat's bright colors, and tricked by her slyly composed text and detailed but deceptive pictures. Kathy Mallat opens with low perspective pictures of people boarding a train, the conductor shouting: "All aboard! Next stop, Black Cat Crossing."

The train "rumbles through villages where faces are familiar." It speeds along under the engineer's watchful eye, until he spots "trouble" ahead. Soon, the figures watching the train seem unusually static and their faces look indistinct. Many of them point upwards, striking a similar pose--as if they all came from the same mold. Still, it's not enough to give away the surprise, or that there even is a surprise--until the next page, where two large golden eyes stare out at us from a black face, and the engineer yells, "Oh no, Trouble on the tracks." (Note that it's capital "T," Trouble--as in a name...)

Finally, after the train is partially derailed, and trees have fallen (and we begin wondering, "What kind of a book IS this, anyway?), Mallat introduces Trouble the Cat, a cat owned by the "engineer" who constructed the toy train and its realistic-looking town. Mallat changes to human-level perspective, and we seet the black cat dwarfing the train set; suddenly, we notice that the people are posed on barely visible, translucent stands. As the young engineer fixes the train and sounds the whistle, the train once again "rumbles through villages where faces are familiar," and "Trouble" (seen hiding behind "Bapa's Village Store") lurks and waits for another pouncing opportunity.

"Trouble in the Tracks" is an enchanting tail within a tale, and it triumphs both as a straight train book and as a trompe de l'oeil. Like a magician's audience that has been told what to look for, Mallat's reader and listeners are now her confidantes, and they will want to revisit this book looking for clues, proud of their newfound expertise. Some may even get the urge to own a train set, especially if they have their own four-legged "Trouble" at home to complete the create-destroy-repair cycle that makes pretend play so exciting. A wonderful book that will be read many times over.
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on December 22, 2012
I bought this for my nephew. He is almost 4 years old and he LOVES trains! He has also developed a love of reading. I bought this book used and he loved it immediately. He looks through it whether we read it to him or not because he enjoys the pictures and can almost recite it after reading it so much. Great gift for train loving toddlers!
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on March 13, 2013
We borrowed this first from the library and my son, then 18 months, loved it. We ended up buying it and he continues to enjoy the story and artwork. It is a clever story, and we happen to have both a train table and a cat, so we often find ourselves saying "oh no, Trouble on the tracks!" Because of the story, I am optimistic it will grow with my son as there are clever references that will make more sense as he masters language, but for now he enjoys the simple story and of course, trains.
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on January 10, 2015
Many of the storybooks I read to my own kids, or to classes, actually bore me thoroughly. What a delight it was to open a kid book, and turn to a page that actually shocked me for a minute, and caused me to immediately turn back to the beginning, surprised at myself for missing all those clues. I love this one, both for the simple story, and for the incredible artwork. Well done, Ms Mallat!
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on May 22, 2011
I got this book for the art unit about trains I teach my K's. The story is a bit thin, but I love cats and so do the kids. We talk about trains, toy trains and scale. The cover art is fun to talk about too--at first they do not realize what the "tunnel" is. Wish I had an elmo to really do the book justice.
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on December 27, 2008
This is a great book for the train phase. We found this at the library and my four year old liked it so much, he never wanted to return it! I ordered it from Amazon so we would always have it. We've had it now for a year or two and he still wants to read it. My older kids also enjoyed reading it to him.
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VINE VOICEon May 12, 2008
Thank heaven someone was thinking of an imaginative new twist on the illustrated toy train book. There are a few clever twists in this book, as the train we are following is revealed to be a toy train, and the "trouble" the engineer is cautiously anticipating turns out to be the household cat, aptly named "Trouble", who tends to wander in and wreak havoc on the delicate tracks. Children will love figuring out this story and pointing out the clues to Trouble's identity on the cover and throughout the text.
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on November 3, 2005
My 18 month old loves this book. All you have to do is say people and he runs looking for this book (since the train goes through villages and farmlands were people are familiar). He also enjoys pointing out the cat that's lurking at the end.
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on October 26, 2012
This book has become a family favorite! There are not a lot of words, but the story is good. Perfect for anyone who enjoys trains, and really good for kids who have a short attention span.
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