________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 22. . . .February 7, 2014


Hocus Pocus Takes the Train. (Hocus Pocus).

Sylvie Desrosiers. Illustrated by Rémy Simard.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2013.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-956-7.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Keith McPherson.

*** /4



Hocus Pocus Takes the Train is the second “Hocus Pocus” children’s picturebook crafted by Desrosiers and Simard. Like its predecessor, Hocus Pocus, this story also recounts the tales of a blue rabbit named Hocus Pocus who lives in a magician’s hat and is continually dodging the efforts of Dog, a magician’s grumpy and jealous dog, to rid himself of the rabbit. In this story, however, Hocus the rabbit finds himself so drawn to a misplaced stuffed toy that he ends up missing the very train he is supposed to take with the magician and Dog. The rest of the story describes Hocus Pocus’ efforts as he tries to catch up with, and board, the moving train, dodge Dog’s efforts to keep him of the train, and return to the magician’s hat.

internal art     Like Hocus Pocus, Hocus Pocus Takes the Train just falls short of being called a wordless book as it does employ a few words to indicate environmental sounds (such as the ‘zzzzz’ of Dog’s snoring, and ‘zip’ for an automatic door opening and ‘blub’ for when an ice cream cone lands on Dog’s head) and symbols such as a question mark to indicate a character’s confusion. However, the plot is largely conveyed through images, and children will not need to read the limited text to engage with the story.

     Simard’s comic-book-like illustrations are bright and colourful, with settings being sparse but realistic. Characters are drawn in an iconic fashion exhibiting a great deal of expression. Much of the story plot is clearly conveyed to the reader through facial expressions and body gestures. The images definitely beg children to describe what is happening and predict what will happen on the next page, thus lending nicely to directed reading instruction.

     Young readers will also delight in Simard’s visual slapstick humour. My favourite image is Dog’s grumpy face after rabbit tosses an ice cream cone to Dog and it just happens to land ice-cream-side-down on Dog’s head. One critique of this book (and the original book, Hocus Pocus) is that parents and teachers may need to visually demonstrate and guide young children in viewing/reading the left-to-right top-to-bottom comic book reading format, -especially if children will be expected to independently read Hocus Pocus Takes the Train.

     As was the case in Hocus Pocus, the multiple clashes and crises between rabbit and Dog, and rabbit and his environment (in this case a train) still play a key role in keeping the storyline moving along briskly while maintaining the reader’s interest. The story’s plot is well-thought-out and keeps readers wondering up until the last page: how will rabbit ever get back home; how he will avoid Dog’s evil plans; and how will rabbit return the stuffed toy to the original owner (especially since rabbit has come to covet the toy as the story line progresses)?

      Hocus Pocus Takes the Train is another wonderfully hilarious read that dispels the notion that sequels are not crafted as well as the original story. The plot will have you and your youngsters cheering on Hocus and booing Dog, turning pages quickly to see what happens next, and wondering throughout how the multiple storylines will ever be resolved. A must-read for those who want their funny bones tickled.


Keith McPherson has been an elementary teacher and teacher-librarian in BC since 1984, and he is currently a lecturer for the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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