________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 19. . . .January 19, 2018


The Spooky Express Canada: A Halloween Thrill Ride.

Eric James. Illustrated by Marcin Piwowarski.
Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2017.
32 pp., hardcover, $13.99.
ISBN 978-1-4926-5346-2.

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

** /4



We were out trick-or-treating,
my best friend and I,
when we saw a huge shape
swooping down from the sky.


A costumed boy and girl are out on Halloween night when a ghost passenger train swoops out of sky and its conductor offers the pair a ride aboard the “Spooky Express”. The airborne train then overflies several Canadian cities and even dives into a lake. The youngsters’ fellow passengers include ghosts, ghouls, mummies, witches, ogres, wizards, werewolves and vampire bats. The possibility of disaster looms when the steam locomotive’s engineer loses its head, a carved pumpkin, on a sharp curve, and the train careens on, now out of control. With the assistance of some of their spooky train mates, the two human children retrieve the pumpkin head and reunite it with its body, thereby saving everyone.

      James’ rhyming text tells an acceptable Halloween tale, and Piwowarski’s colouful cartoon-like illustrations offer up friendly, as opposed to scary, renderings of the “beings” abroad on Halloween night.

      In terms of expressing the Canada found in the title, illustration-wise Piwowarski has placed a couple of Canadian flags on the train’s cowcatcher and has included some iconic Canadian buildings, such as Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum of Human Rights and the nation’s Parliament buildings, on the book’s cover and penultimate page. Other than one internal illustration of the CN Tower, Piwowarski’s other visual renderings of Canada are largely limited to signs captioned with Canadian place names, i.e., Lynn Canyon Park or Moraine Lake. James’ Canadian contributions are equally light and simply consist of occasionally mentioning Canadian cities or other features within his poetry.

We glided along
through a dark stormy sky,
and we watched as the streets
of Vancouver
whizzed by.

We zipped over Calgary,
saw its bright lights,
and spotted Toronto
from dizzying heights.

     If your collection needs more Halloween related content, The Spooky Express Canada is definitely worth a look, but, if the aspect of Canadian content is important, then you’ll likely want to take a pass.

Recommended with Reservations.

Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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