Watty Piper is the pseudonym of Arnold Munk, author behind the classic retelling of The Little Engine That Could and cofounder of Platt & Munk Publishers (now part of Grosset & Dunlap.) Munk's retelling of the beloved children's tale has sold millions of copies since its 1930 publication and inspired generations to believe they can.
Long (I Dream of Trains) pays respectful homage to George and Doris Hauman's compositions in his visual interpretation of the classic tale of determination and perseverance, first published in 1930. Yet the artist adds a lushness to the spreads and injects even more personality into the characters; he uses the larger format to play up the vistas of mountain and valley that pose such a challenge to the engines on this route, and gives "the funniest little toy clown you ever saw" a starring role. A cheerful purple elephant whose eyes droop as one engine after another declines to pull their load, a pair of pull-toys containing curious giraffes (their necks bow in disappointment) and a cuddly, expressive stuffed monkey are among the supporting cast. The spacious spreads also allow for a more dramatic flow of the text (the original often broke a paragraph in the middle of a climactic moment). Long adorns the different engines with wry human characteristics. The cowcatcher of the haughty Shiny New Engine resembles teeth exposed by a snarl, while the Rusty Old Engine (who says, "I can not. I can not") sports a smokestack in the shape of a dilapidated top hat, a mop of gray hair and a monocle. The piece de resistance is the brave Little Blue Engine that could, with bright blue eyes in place of windows, a wide smile and-while chugging up that daunting mountain-a pink tongue protruding from her mouth. Both faithful fans and newcomers will enjoy this triumphant ride and eagerly climb aboard for repeat excursions. Ages 3-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
PreS-Gr 2-This classic tale has been re-released with updated illustrations and a larger format. The text remains the same. The art, done with acrylics, is stylized and still retains a bit of an old-fashioned flavor. Nevertheless, the '30s look is definitely gone. In its place, readers will find artwork suggestive of a retro '50s look. As with the original, the clown takes center stage. His outfit, however, has changed from green polka dots to red pants, yellow shirt, and a colorful stocking cap. The text, with its, "I think I can, I think I can" refrain, is a timeless piece of children's literature and so familiar that it needs no elaboration. It's hard to improve upon a classic, and one advantage that the traditional edition has over this one is that the quaint and sentimental text pairs nicely with the "antique" artwork. The modern illustrations undoubtedly work better with a group but they have a faux feel to them. As such they are a little out of sync with the prim and proper style of writing in the story about the "good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain [who will be] without the wonderful toys to play with and the good food to eat-." Nevertheless, this is an acceptable purchase, especially for those libraries without a copy of the first edition or larger libraries wishing to collect all versions of classic tales.-Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.