has what every children's book should have: mystery, adventure, beautiful illustrations and a trainload full of excitement. Young Timothy has just moved in, and his parents have gone to run errands in the nearby town of Yonderville, leaving Timothy and his dog Curly behind. While sitting on the steps of his new home, Timothy's how-will-I make-new-friends worries are interrupted by a strange rumble. What meets Timothy's eyes is a circus train that has gotten stuck on the wrong track. He runs to inspect this surprising site. "What a train this was! The more he saw, the better it got." Suddenly Timothy's mundane Saturday morning was filled with clowns, tigers, elephants, hand-painted railway cars, tightrope walkers and a band. Why, even the engineer had a red-nosed clown face, wild orange hair and was named Mr. Carrot Top! Alas, the bridge has collapsed and the circus is due to perform in Yonderville. So Timothy comes up with an ingenious rescue, using the elephants, a cannon and a performer aptly named Captain Von Boom, all visible thanks to a big, delightful multi-page foldout! Timothy springs to action, barking orders left and right. And when he, the train and the circus reach their destination, Timothy's gaping parents are among the circus-awaiting crowd.

Here's a whopping tale for any kid who has ever dreamed of a daring exploit or of running away to the circus, as artist Jos. Smith explains. A professor of fine arts at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute, Smith was inspired by an old photograph of a steam engine and a yard crew, which in turn inspired a series of fantasy train watercolors and, eventually, this book. His illustrations manage to combine the boldness and brightness of a circus adventure with the delicateness and subtlety appropriate for a heartfelt, magical fantasy.

Pair Circus Train with Chris Van Allsburg's The Polar Express, and you'll have a super combo of magical train rides. All aboard for steam engine fun! Alice Cary leads her own circus of three young children in central Massachusetts.

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