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New Baby Train Hardcover – September 15, 2004
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From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 1–Guthrie's song is brought to life by Frazee's gouache illustrations, which tell a story all their own. A guitar-playing narrator and his younger siblings sit together on their front porch, as the boy tries to explain where babies come from. The text reads, "I guess little babies come along/just about any way they can./Cars, trucks, tractors, airplanes,/any way they can come." In subsequent illustrations, the children dash off, wait for a train together, and watch as their brother climbs aboard. Babies also wait for the train and when it arrives, they line up, all sizes, shapes, and colors, with diapers dragging and tickets ready. The narrator tells their tale as the train races through hill and dale, clouds and sky, to deliver its cargo. On the way, the little ones are served bottles of milk, take naps, and then, one by one, are dropped off at their new homes. The boy brings the last one to his house, where the entire family welcomes the new arrival. The brown palette of the artwork and the clothing of the characters give this book a Depression-era look, while the technique of using lines to fill the backgrounds provides a constant sense of motion. Swirling clouds surround a train that doesn't need tracks and at times looks like it's flying to its destination. A fanciful and fun rendition.–Jane Marino, Bronxville Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
PreS-Gr. 1. A set of recently discovered lyrics by America's favorite troubadour, presented here without music, postulates a whimsical alternative to the stork-special-delivery school of reproductive thought. "I guess little babies come along just about any way they can," Guthrie muses--though he prefers to imagine them chugging home aboard the "new baby train." Guthrie's verses are as ramblin' as their nomadic originator, and these don't translate to print as well as the far better known "This Land Is Your Land" did in Kathy Jakobsen's 1998 book. But Frazee finds spark to ignite her imagination in Guthrie's words, unfolding a visual tall tale about a youngster who hitches a ride aboard the train to soothe its infant passengers. Flecked brown paper imparts a Dust Bowl atmosphere, and backgrounds rendered with powerful horizontal strokes suggest the blurred view through a train's window. Press this upon adoptive families, who will particularly appreciate the notion of babies on a whistle-stop tour of welcoming households. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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I bet you'd like to know,
'How do brand-new babies
get into this house?'" -- from the book
Written by famed folk singer Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) and illustrated by Marla Frazee, New Baby Train is a simplistic book theorizing where babies come from: why, the New Baby Train, of course!
My son loves trains AND babies, so I thought New Baby Train would be a perfect book for him. Indeed, he was overjoyed with my pick and I read it to him last night. In fact, he chose this book over his brand new Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas book (which surprised me)!
The illustrations are chalky, muted tones of mostly sepia tones (brown, gray, black, dirty white, muddy green, etc.) and the story isn't particularly clever in my opinion. In fact, the thought had crossed my mind that the only reason this book got published was because of the popularity of the author!
However, there is great detailing on the train illustrations, so young train enthusiasts will LOVE seeing the train from different perspectives--including whooshing down a steep hill! Many of the illustrations are downright amusing, such as diaper-clad babies drinking bottles in the dining car while the waiter--with towel properly draped over his arm--serves a tray of bottles to the passengers.
Fans of trains and babies will no doubt love this book. It's a short read as a bed time story and the subdued colors are a nice change of pace from most of the storybooks that scream with psychedelic hues these days.
Where do babies come from? Well, sir, that's a mighty fine question. If it were asked in seriousness we'd have to go pull out a copy of "Where Willy Went" by Nicholas Allan. Fortunately, it is not and we instead watch a floppy-hatted guitar-strumming kid rhapsodizing on the subject. "The flowers bring some, the trees bring some, the birds bring some, the cars bring some...". One of the most amusing ways they might come, however, is via a kind of new baby train. In his mind, the narrator sees himself catching such a train and finding it filled with babies ready to go to new homes. When the conductor tells the boy to hop on board, he meets the infants already there and enjoys the ride. The boy and babies sing together, partake of some especially tasty bottles, and nap a little while. By the end, every baby has found its place, including one that's just come home with the boy.
I have to say, illustrator Marla Frazee knows how to pick 'em. I imagine she felt she'd hit gold when she found herself paired with an author like the inimitable Guthrie. Talk about illustrating the words of giants! Frazee's an impressive name in the children's literary world in her own right, I should note. Her "Roller Coaster" is repeatedly requested by tots and her "Hush Little Baby: A Folk Song With Pictures" proves that she was already well-acquainted with both folksongs and the Dust Bowl long before "New Baby Train" landed in her lap. The book itself invokes the dirt and hard labor of the Great Depression. Pullman Porters, dusty farmlands, and babies reading the Hobo News (the word "STRIKE" is nice and bright on the front page) are all present here. There are plenty of in-jokes for parents familiar in any way with Guthrie's life and works and the babies are beautifully multicultural, so that's one less thing to worry about. Frazee's so careful that she even makes the undersides of the babies bare feet dark with the dirt of the road. Of course, while there's nothing wrong with the book per say, it is a little confusing. First the boy seems to be pretending that he's on the baby train. Next thing you know you're at the end of the book and there's an honest-to-goodness baby there with him. Still, I have a hard time resisting this work. I mean, kids who read this story multiple times will discover that each baby is easy to spot and follow the story of. It's nice that the one that goes home with the boy is also the only one that sang along with his guitar.
I guess this book is just a matter of taste. Some people will love it and some will scratch their heads trying to figure out what to make of it. I do think that it's a bit confusing at times and I certainly wouldn't check it out when a child asks about the origin of babies in all seriousness. It also would've been nice if the book had included a recording of the original song. This would clear up the confusion surrounding the fact that this book never attempts to rhyme. Bear that in mind if reading it aloud. Try pairing this book instead with other baby friendly titles like "Baby Brains" by Simon James or "The Day the Babies Crawled Away" by Peggy Rathmann. As it stands, I don't believe that this is the best Woody Guthrie book turned into picture book form, but it certainly stands on its own two feet just fine.