Zero Local

Ethan Murrow

Book - 2020

Board the train for a story of art, diversity, and community in a near-wordless tale told through masterful, sumptuously detailed black-and-white illustrations. Train riders are used to stressful delays on the Zero Local line. But when a new passenger shows gratitude to the driver on their daily commute, tensions begin to ease. Eventually the artistic traveler stops riding the Zero Local line, and discord begins to creep back into the train car. Will the regular passengers find a way to restore the sense of camaraderie they once felt? Inspired by a true story, Ethan and Vita Murrow share with us a tender ode to the power of art and its ability to foster friendship and community in the most unlikely of places.

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Location Call Number   Status
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Children's Room jE/Murrow Checked In
Wordless picture books
Picture books
Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press 2020
Main Author
Ethan Murrow (author)
Other Authors
Vita Murrow (author)
First edition
Item Description
"Inspired by a true story" --Inside cover.
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : illustrations (some color) ; 26 x 29 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

The second collaborative wordless picture book from the Murrows (The Whale, 2016), this evokes city life through beautiful pencil drawings. The story begins on Monday on the inbound Z train, whose monotonous grays are disrupted by the arrival of an artist with a yellow hat--and a yellow bird on their shoulder. For the next several days, the artist sits next to a young girl also wearing yellow, creates a picture, and gifts the art to the conductor when they disembark. The reader can see a community growing around the artist and their work. But on Thursday, the artist does not board the train. On Friday, long waits cause conflict among the passengers. Luckily, the young girl has learned the artist's lessons of sharing and kindness. The amount of detail in each illustration is astounding--one spread features the artist's arm and hand drawing a picture, and careful crosshatching gives it an impressive photorealistic effect. The story is slight, but children will continue talking about the artwork long after the book is closed.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Taut pencil drawings by married collaborators Ethan and Vita Murrow (The Whale) show how art can forge community in public spaces. Meticulously drafted spreads capture the action on an urban train: daily commuters representing a range of ethnicities are already seated when a figure in a skirt and a loud hat steps aboard, a yellow bird perched on one shoulder. "Monday," reads a date tag in the corner--"Major delays." The passenger starts drawing, and the girl in the next seat, a child of color in a yellow shirt, is entranced. When the train stops, the artist hands the drawing to the driver, who beams, their vest turning yellow, too. Tuesday and Wednesday ("On time"), similar scenarios unfold, but on Thursday ("Delays"), the artist's seat is empty, and the girl wilts, then has an idea. On Friday ("Major delays"), she cuts and folds paper creations to dispel tension in the car, and her work produces smiles--and the spread of yellow across the city. Detailed portraits of passengers by the Murrows value each one as an individual. The initial artist, cued as gender fluid, is portrayed as a hero whose powers depend on creativity and loving-kindness. Ages 4--8. (Apr.)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 2--In this wordless picture book, a young girl riding a train is inspired by an artist's impromptu drawing to show some appreciation to the driver. She and the other passengers soon come to anticipate the artist's daily creations, but when they suddenly stop showing up on the train, it's up to the girl to fill the train and the world with beauty. The message of creating art to reduce hatred and stress in the world is simple but effective and may lead to discussions about what's happening in each scene, as some pages are more open to interpretation. The artwork is the star of the piece. As in the Murrows' The Whale, the photorealistic pencil drawings are expertly detailed and textured, while the gray palette creates a subdued tone, initially fitting to the theme. The illustrator later adds hints of bright yellow to characters who are literally touched by art--which will help younger readers unlock the meaning behind the story. VERDICT A touching addition.--Peter Blenski, Hartland Public Library, WI

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Kindness is contagious in the Murrows' latest wordless picture book. The week starts on the Zero Local train the way so many do--with delays. Landscape and figures alike are subsumed in the grays and shadows of textured pencil drawings, capturing the haze of passengers' Monday frustration. Only two riders break up the gray--a white adult with a yellow hat and a shoulder-riding yellow bird and a young person of color wearing a yellow shirt. The passenger with the yellow hat pulls out pencil and paper to draw a funny picture of birds as a thank-you card for the train driver, a simple act of kindness marked by the driver's vest's turning from gray to yellow. The artist's drawings and kindness continue through the week, until a day comes when they do not board the train. As delays and tension sharply rise, the young rider also decides to create some art and cuts out paper birds to offer to fellow passengers. Where words so often fail, the wordless breathes life into people's smallest actions and deepest impacts, as the Murrows' spreads uplift the mundane. It's a positive love letter to community (even among commuter-train regulars), diversity, and paying it forward. A lack of contrast in the predominantly gray palette may present an obstacle for readers with low sensitivity. Timely and timeless, as kindness always is. (Picture book. 3-7) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.