All aboard! Anchors aweigh! These inventive picture books are your tickets for two fantastic voyages as they capture the fun of transforming your world using nothing but your imagination.
A girl escapes onto a make-believe train in Michael Emberley and Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick's I Can Make a Train Noise, which creatively sweeps readers right alongside her on an adventure that’s bursting with rhythm and energy.
As she enters a city coffee shop with her family, the girl spots a commuter train rushing by on an elevated track. Intrigued, she quietly says, “I can make a train noise.” Once inside, she repeats her statement a bit louder. No one notices, so she stands up on her chair and adds an emphatic “NOW!” In the next spread she leaps off her chair and plunges into her own imagination.
A swoosh of brown and white paint signifies that the girl is transforming the coffee shop into a traveling train, with herself as its engineer and her family and other customers as its passengers. Tabletop condiments and salt and pepper shakers become skyscrapers that the train speeds past before heading into the countryside. The red train and blue sky provide splashes of color amid muted sepia spreads, emphasizing the shifting landscape and giving readers a sense of change and motion.
Through the book's exquisitely minimal text and repeated titular refrain, readers feel the clickety clacks of the train's acceleration, as variations in lettering size and layout highlight changes in momentum and direction. “TRAIN-NOISE-TRAIN-NOISE-TRAIN-NOISE . . .” appears in a small, straight line across a spread that shows the train chugging through a grassy prairie. And “Now!” becomes the train’s whistle, at one point appearing in huge letters on a curved baseline—"NOOOOW!!"—as the train whooshes through a tunnel.
The result is a fully choreographed, immersive journey. Readers will see and hear the train rumble along the tracks, then feel it stop abruptly with a jumble of passengers when it pulls into the station. The book ends with an enticing invitation that breaks the fourth wall in irresistible fashion. Deceptively simple, I Can Make a Train Noise is a perfect choice for reading aloud. Young readers will eagerly hop aboard again and again.
All it takes is a sturdy wooden crate for a determined red-haired girl to turn an uneventful afternoon into a grand adventure in I Want a Boat!. Through a series of spare declarative statement pairings, the girl dreams up an exciting sea voyage and sets sail right from her bedroom.
“I have a box. / I want a boat,” the girl announces on the first page as she stands before an empty wooden box, hands on her hips. On the next page, she declares, “I have a boat. / I want a rudder,” while seated inside the box, smiling. The action continues to build in this fashion as she uses ordinary objects to fulfill her seafaring needs. Stuffed animals become her crew, and a toy whale swims beside her in the imaginary ocean. The girl also yearns for and creates excitement, including the danger of a raging storm, the peril of stuffed-animal sailors gone overboard and the thrill of a safe return—happy, tired and ready for dinner.
Author Liz Garton Scanlon’s step-by-step approach to the story doesn’t just create an effective narrative arc that’s perfect for preschoolers. It also provides a road map for young readers inclined to envision their own imaginative expeditions.
Kevan Atteberry’s cheery and animated illustrations practically leap off the pages. He’s a master of using simple strokes to convey great emotion, whether it’s the girl’s exuberance as she sails the high seas or her stuffed animals’ astonished expressions as she sets off.
In tandem with the story’s exciting ebbs and flows, white margins frame each page, becoming slimmer as the girl grows more engrossed in her voyage. When the girl declares, “I have the wind. / I want the world,” the margins give way to full-bleed spreads, only to reemerge as she returns home. It’s a wonderful homage to a similar technique employed by Maurice Sendak in his ultimate imaginative adventure story, Where the Wild Things Are.
In I Want a Boat! dynamic illustrations and tightly focused prose combine for a boatload of high-seas fun.