Line 135

by Germano Zullo and Albertine

{published 2013, by Chronicle Books}

I’m in that bleary-eyed, inspired, and terrified post-SCBWI haze. Are you?

That’s why this book is perfect for this time. And isn’t that always why picture books are perfect? There’s something magical about those moments that are captured, when the polaroid’s positive sheet has just pulled away from the negative. That moment, exposed. That’s the one I mean.

The creators of Line 135 also collaborated on Little Bird, which has dinged around in my skull for a long time, but I still have no coherent thoughts on it. It’s that enchanting. And of course, my beloved Sky High, which, just – wow.

The line on which this whole story is hinged? My mother and my grandmother say that I am too small to know the entire world.

So how to fit the entire world in this book? It’s a long rectangle. Intentionally and beautifully so, because unfolding the pages reveals more and more train track. The sense of distance is heightened, much like in Sky High, but along the horizon line this time. We travel with this narrator. The endpapers are bright neon green to match the train, and a wordless spread before the journey shows our narrator with her mother. After the trip? a wordless spread with her grandmother. The journey is bound.

Albertine’s line drawings include whimsical details like the poofs of exhaust plumes on a highway maze of cars, or weeds growing straight up through the hole in a discarded tire. Always, always speeding forward? That sleek and vibrant train, holding that also vibrant little girl and her wisdom. I love that her capsule is holding all of the color. The black and whites are striking, but her trip (and her truth) stands out. And as the train moves forward, as the narrator grows in confidence and gumption, the illustrations get more fantastic. Gone are the looming skyscrapers of the city, welcome are the sandcastles with turrets and spiral staircases. Isn’t that beautiful? As she becomes more dogged in her determination, her surroundings are less real, less sad, and less intimidating.

Go get this one. Ride a train. Read an adventure. Get swept up in the trip.

ch MoreToRead I wrote a thing about my favorite middle grade novels over at Design Mom this week. Did I get your favorites?


  • Suellen Franze
    Posted August 8, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    I love this. Thanks, Carter. Suellen

    Sent from my iPad

  • Posted August 9, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Carter, the design in this book is lovely — so clean with a lot of proportion. Will check it out.

  • Posted August 10, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    WOW!! Amazing drawings! The adventure still continues!! <3
    Ellie from

  • Posted August 11, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink


  • Posted August 11, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Oh, wonderful! I’m such a huge fan of this creative duo. ‘Little Bird’ is one of my favorite wordless picture books. Thrilled to know they have a new one out. thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Posted August 11, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Carter, this is another beautiful story in art. So full of wonder and shows how context is such a valid element in picture book illustration. Contrast can say so much with the right context. The stark black and white lined world seems to be softened by the MC’s wondering on her journey. Love this.

  • Posted August 15, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Love those thoughts. You are so right.

  • Posted August 12, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    This is so sweet and amazing. Love the art, the thought behind it is genius!!!!!

  • Posted August 15, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Totally agree.

  • Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    like the pic’s . The book sounds so interesting.

  • Posted August 15, 2013 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    “The journey is bound.” Love that.

  • Posted August 15, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Thank you!

  • Posted August 26, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    so cute

  • Posted November 8, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Just wanted to let you know that upon your recommendation I recently purchased Line 135 and Sky High for my son (which of course means really for me). Both are stunning, thank you for sharing.

  • Posted November 8, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Permalink


  • Posted February 8, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    I love Albertine! Our library only received the French edition, so it was nice to be able to get a better sense of the story.

One Trackback

  • By All Aboard!! | Reading With Rhythm on August 30, 2013 at 7:02 am

    […] of train books. She learned about one of the books, Line 135, from Carter Higgins’s blog, Design of the Picture Book. It looked like just the right story and if Ms Higgins gushed about it, it must be […]