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Hey! Get Off Our Train


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About the Author

John Burningham works in the basement of his house in London on an old boardroom table, which came from The Monkey Club, a school for debutantes in Kensington, and is littered with pens, pencils, paints, papers and rough drawings. When he's not working on a book, he loves collecting -- furniture, statues, staircases, and old curtains. He travels around England and France looking for unusual things to put in his house or to sell to someone else. John marks the day with things to look forward to -- a large mug of good strong coffee to start the day, lunch, when his wife, children's book writer and illustrator Helen Oxenbury and John can discuss their work or just have a general chat; and at around six o'clock, a drink of delicious red wine, preferably French (wine is another one of his interests). He has always been interested in the third dimension, and many of his books have to be constructed layer by layer because he enjoys painting on different materials -- paper, cardboard, wood -- so that a variety of textures comes through on the printed page.


PreS-Gr 2-- In a dream sequence, a boy and his canine companion board his toy train for a trip around the world. They interrupt their journey to get off the train and play, but when they return they discover that an uninvited elephant has come on board. The pair are indignant--until they learn of the elephant's plight: he has become an endangered species because of his tusks. In their travels, they in turn encounter a seal, a crane, a tiger, and a polar bear, each recounting the environmental hazards that threaten its survival. The animals are then welcomed aboard. In the final scene, when the boy's mother comes to wake him, she voices her suspicions about his nocturnal activity, for the house is now full of exotic animals. The book's message is loud and clear. While readers will be in complete sympathy with the philosophy espoused here, they may resent the book's heavy-handedness. The pen-and-ink/pastel sketches of the boy and the animals have an endearing innocence, and there is a Turner-like quality in the full-page illustrations that depict an old-fashioned, coal-powered locomotive bursting with power and energy as it clatters along. Good intentions, laudable as they may be, do not make a successful picture book. --Phyllis G. Sidorsky, National Cathedral School, Washington, DC

Burningham's latest book is extremely clever in combining words and pictures that are equally innovative. A boy, playing with a toy train in his bedroom, is told by his mother to go to bed. He closes his eyes, and soon is hurtling through the countryside on his train, in the company of his stuffed dog, who has come to life. ``Hey! Get off our train,'' they say to an elephant who climbs on board. The elephant explains that he is trying to escape from someone who wants to cut off his tusks, so they let him stay. The boy and the dog also give sanctuary to other endangered animals, including a seal, a crane, a tiger and a polar bear, as the train travels through different lands. Burningham uses color sparsely and effectively, and his artwork, which incorporates many styles, offers a different effect on almost every page. The story's important, timely message of protection for endangered species is delivered with just enough subtlety and delightful humor. The surprise ending is terrific. Ages 4-9. (Mar.)

"Only Burningham could make an ecological fable so much fun. A boy goes to bed and dreams that he and his stuffed dog, now a railroad engineer, are speeding through the countryside playing games and picking up endangered animals. Spacious drawings contrasted with textured landscape paintings create a striking effect as the artist juggles antic humor with a serious message--and never misses a beat."--Bulletin, Center for Children's Books.

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