Janet Sumner Johnson
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Picture Book Review: RAILWAY JACK

Oct 07, 2019 Uncategorized Comment

One of the most important parts of writing is reading. Read as many books as you can in the genre you want to write in. So as you can imagine, I have read a lot of picture books lately. I love a good picture book review, and I love hearing about good books from others. So I’m going to share some of my favorites. I’ll focus on picture book reviews, but since I love middle grade books, I’ll probably throw in a few of those too.

I’ll be posting my reviews on Goodreads where I review other books in addition to the ones I blog about. Feel free to follow me on Goodreads if you like. Please note that I’ll only review books I love on my blog, so if it’s here, I give it five stars (Goodreads’ system).

First up is RAILWAY JACK written by KT Johnston, and illustrated by César Samaniego.

Image may contain: one or more peopleI’m going to confess that while I do love a good non-fiction picture book, my heart is with fiction. Given that, I might have been a little hesitant to pick this up. But boy am I ever glad that I gave this one a chance!

What an amazing story! This book is about an amazing duo: Jim Wide, and his service baboon, Jack. Jim had lost both of his legs in a rail accident and struggled to do his job at the railway until he found Jack. I was fascinated by Jim’s foresight to recognize the potential of what Jack could do to help him. I was amazed by all the skills that Jack was able to learn, and it gave me a greater appreciation for baboons and service animals in general.

The author did an impressive amount of research on the topic. I especially appreciated the photos at the end of the book. I’d never heard of a baboon being used as a service animal, and I found the author’s note about the history of service animals to be interesting and very informative. I have no doubt the discussion questions at the end will lead to great discussions that fascinate kids.


My favorite part was when the heads of the railway came down on Jim for allowing a baboon to do  the work of a human. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I won’t tell you what happens, but when you read it, you will know why this is my favorite. (I know, I’m totally the worst! But read it! You won’t be disappointed.)

I can’t end without mentioning the art. The illustrator did a beautiful job on the pictures. They really brought the story to life. I loved the style, and felt it was a great fit for the story. And after seeing the old photographs at the end, I enjoyed looking back through the pictures to note the great attention to detail that Mr. Samaniego paid to his work.

This is a wonderful story that I highly recommend!

Note: I received an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

KT Johnston found history a boring subject in school—but now it’s the passion of her writing.

She earned a degree in biology and conducted wildlife behavior studies before switching to a corporate career. After raising two children and several litter sof curly-coated retrievers, KT began writing, spotlighting special animals who had affected the lives of everyday people. She and her husband live in Minneapolis, where the four-legged members of her family have always been special. KT hopes to inspire others to be curious about our world as well, one true story at a time.

You can follow her on Twitter, and learn more about her at her website.

César Samaniego was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1975. He grew up with an artist father, smelling his father’s oils, reading his comic books, and trying to pain over his father’s illustrations! He attended Llotja Arts and Crafts School and graduated with honors in 2010. Since then he has published many books and provided art for apps, textbooks, and animations. César lives in Canet de Mar, a small coastal town near Barcelona, with his wife, daughter, five cats, and a crazy dog.

You can find more of his amazing art here.

RAILWAY JACK is on Goodreads, and is available for pre-order!

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