The back of a cereal box, the newspaper, iPad, iPhone, or a picture book. It doesn’t matter what, I just want something to read over my oatmeal or pancakes or eggs. And so do my kids. We have a long counter that is more like an island in the middle of our kitchen, and I have two portable hook chairs attached so that the kids sit on one side of the counter and I feed them, or read to them, from the other. For the last few weeks our book of choice has been Railroad Hank (Random House, 2012), by Wisconsin author Lisa Moser and illustrator Benji Davies. “Wailwoad Hank!” my almost three-year-old says. “Book! Choo choo!” chimes in my 16-month-old.
And so we read.
For me, this picture book about Railroad Hank who takes his “fine little train” up the mountain to cheer up Granny Bett, kind-heartedly albeit incorrectly gathering her get-happy gifts as he goes, is darn near perfect. He stops to see Missy May at Happy Flap Farm and she suggests he take eggs to Granny Bett. “But where do you get eggs?” Railroad Hank asks. “From my hens, of course,” Missy May replies. So Railroad Hank loads the hens onto his train. “Take the eggs! Not the hens!” yells Missy May. The dramatic irony, which makes this book so funny for adults and kids, continues as Railroad Hank visits Country Carl, Reel-‘Em-In-Sam and Cimmemon Cobbler. Every time he mistakenly packs something onto his train (cows, not milk, water not fish, trees not apples) both of my kids yell out–“Oh no!” and “uh oh!” All of the characters follow Railroad Hank up the mountain. I’ll leave what happens at the top for you to read, but I assure you, it’s a hoot.
Dramatic irony, humor, well-defined characters. Picture book diction at its finest. Every word counts. Every word, every sentence is fun to read. Like this one. Try it: “She hooted and snorted and slapped her leg. She shook until her bonnet slid sideways and her shoelaces popped.”
And then there’s the refrain. After each stop we get to watch the train steaming up the mountain and yell out together, “Chugga chugga, chugga chugga, WOO WOO WOO!!”
It doesn’t get any better than that.
Picture Book House Rating: READ IT AGAIN, MOMMY!
Will do, over breakfast and all day long. You should, too.