Tuwim’s rhythmic poem Locomotive invites us aboard an old steam train as it chuffs and puffs out of the station. As it races along, rattling and clattering past bridges and valleys, we look inside some of the train’s many carriages. There’s a wagon of bananas, one full of pianos, another is carrying animals off to the zoo, there are giraffes and elephants and bicycles and umbrellas, and a trio of men, all eating sausages. Le Witt and Him’s illustrations capture inventively the smoke and the speed and the humorous cargo.
Replicating the original edition, this book includes two more short stories – the well-loved folk tale about a turnip so enormous that the farmer can’t pull it up and the hilarious story of chatterbox birds who can’t agree on anything. Harking back to precedents in Russian children’s book-making and looking forward to the Picture Puffins and other hugely successful models in Britain and North America, Locomotive stands out as a beacon of quality and imagination that works its charm on children and parents in the twenty-first century just as much as it did on its first publication eighty years ago.