(Cybils 2012) Trains and Oh No! Books

Today’s mashup of Cybils nominees brings us a favorite topic of my son (trains) and some books with surprizes of disappointment. Both of the Oh No! books are unique in art style and memorable in their writing.

But first I have to bring you my son’s favorite topic: trains. The first of these books is a truly silly story that all will love, even if trains are not your favorite thing as they are for Raisin.

Railroad Hank by Lisa Moser and illustrated by Benji Davies (Random House, 2012) is a story of a train engineer who wants to help his granny feel better. Hank is rather slow, however: when Missy May suggests making a yummy plate of scramble eggs, Hank takes the chickens with him, and so forth. By the time Hank arrives at Granny’s house, he has a train full of silly things: chickens, cows, apple trees, and even the fishing pond. Yes, the pond, instead of the fish! Granny can’t be blue with such a ridiculous friend bringing him things! Raisin and I loved the really silly pictures, and the familiar refrain of the train chugging along of course made this book a winner for my train-loving son. Reminiscent of Simple Simon, Epaminandos, or Lazy Jack, Railroad Hank gives us another story of a silly person who misunderstands how to help. In Hank’s case, he succeeds in helping Granny, much to our delight.

Train Man by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha (Henry Holt, 2012) is a part of a series of books that also includes Fire Engine Man and Digger Man. In Train Man, a young boy tells his younger brother about trains and how he cannot wait to grow up so he can work on a train. He describes the job he will have, the train he will drive, the places he will go, and he even promises to let his little brother join in and pull the whistle every now and then. The illustrations are bright acrylic paints, and I loved the inclusion of the brother in each scene. My son likewise loves trains, construction trucks, and fire engines, so he has also enjoyed reading this and other books in the series.

It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Jeremy Tankard (Chronicle, 2012) is a story of a child telling a story, and somehow a tiger keeps appearing, hidden amid the branches of the jungle. The bright ink illustrations give the jungle and the tiger a friendly cartoon-like feel, and the fact that the tiger ends up being a friend makes it all the more inviting to the young reader. My son and I enjoyed the repetition of the tiger appearing in the story and Raisin liked looking for the tiger hiding in the scenery. I like the concept of a story taking over the storyteller. No matter what the boy did, a tiger kept appearing! It’s a Tiger! is lots of fun.

Oh, No! by Candice Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann (Schwartz & Wade, 2012) likewise features a tiger in a jungle, and this tiger is not friendly, with other animals trying to escape him. Fleming’s story has a perfect read-aloud rhythm as the various animals (a frog, a mouse, a sloth, and a sun bear, among others) come to the edge of a pit and peer over, only to find themselves also falling in! Raisin loved the animals’ sounds in the rhymes: ribbity-oops, slop-slurp, and so forth. He loved yelling “Oh, no!” when it was clear the animal was stuck in the pit. Further, although it is a serious story with animals stuck in a pit and a prowling tiger eager to eat them, the rhythmic text, the predictable pattern, and the recurring chant of “oh no!” provides enough comic relief to delight the youngest of readers. To fit the more serious tone of the animal story is Rohmann’s signature artwork. I love his detailed style with the defined lines, careful color choices, and soft feel, and this book is no exception. Oh, No! is highly recommended, either for a storytime or one-on-one reading.

Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton (Candlewick, 2012) is a book I can’t quite bring myself to like, and yet my son loves it! Part of my dislike relates to the computer-rendered modern images: the bright orange and red illustrations remind me of computer drawings I attempted years ago and the typeface is also rather ugly. George’s story, however, is one we can all relate to, and it seems many people (and not just children) really like this book. Haughton begins his book with an easily missed epigram from Epictetus: “. . . No man is free who is not master of himself.” This is the challenge that George the dog has: learning to master his own desires. His owner tells him to not get in trouble, but George is tempted to eat the cake, chase the cat, and otherwise be disobedient. Later, though, he has the chance to decide once more, and he makes the right decisions. I liked the predictable chant of “Oh no, George!” and I liked how the “oh no” pages required the illustrations to help us know the full story. Raisin really liked this book. His thoughts: I liked the book because George kept getting in to things! It was very silly.

Which of these books have you or your children enjoyed? What other”Oh No!” books have you enjoyed?