Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trains, Trains, Trains

I have two boys under the age of 3 and both are obsessed with trains.  They also love trucks, cars, and planes…pretty much anything that VROOMS. 

But the train preference has always puzzled me.  We do not see trains regularly, as with the other forms of transportation.  We do not live in a city and take the subway daily.  The most experience they have had with trains is the shuttle train at the airport and the kiddie “train” at the mall.  Yet they love toy trains, train TV shows, and books about trains.  It is an awful lot of fun to say "choo-choo"!

I will forego including Thomas the Tank Engine in my list.  He is certainly well-read and well-watched in my home, but I don’t find the stories particularly appealing or well-written.  Therefore, my list this week includes train books that my children love and that I appreciate as well.  There are some incredible train books out there.  Let’s ride the rails!

Freight Train
by Donald Crews (ages 2+)

This fabulous Caldecott Honor Book was an early favorite of my oldest son.  It was the first book he could "read" all by himself, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.  I love the colorful cars, the sophisticated vocabulary, and the feeling of motion that this book exudes.  Look for the large format board book (more like a lap book, but still sturdy against rough little book lovers!)
Choo Choo: The Story of a Little Engine Who Ran Away
by Virginia Lee Burton (ages 5+)

Written in 1937, the author of The Little House and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel had a deep insight into the hearts of young readers.  While I find this book a bit long for a bedtime read-aloud, my son asks for it again and again.  It has universal appeal to all those with independent streaks (i.e. children!), as the little engine decides to go on an adventure by herself. 

C is for Caboose: Riding the Rails from A to Z
by Traci N. Todd (ages 3+)

A rollicking and refreshing A to Z book about trains, of course.  Very informative, full of train history and terminology.  I made notes to do a bit of research on a couple of pages that intrigued me.  Possible story ideas?  You never know when inspiration will strike.  This book will appeal to the youngest readers for its theme and A to Z appeal, but also to older children who can comprehend the vocabulary and appreciate railroad history.

by Byron Barton (board book: infant +)

This simple board book follows a passenger train as it passes different kinds of trains on its way to the station.  All of Byron Barton's vehicle board books are favorites in my house.  Don't miss Planes, Trucks, and Boats.  Each follows a similar pattern and is coupled with colorful, cartoonish illustrations.

Shark vs. Train
by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld (ages 3+)

This hysterical book looks at the contests of two toys: a shark and a train.  Opening with "Shark vs. Train: Who will win?", the reader is drawn into a world of competition where the winner depends on the players' strengths.  The illustrations include bantering speech bubbles.  Don't miss this one!

Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo
by Kevin Lewis (ages 2+)

Rhythmic, repetitive, rhyming text drives the story along just like a train.  From sun up to sun down, a toy engineer chugs through the imaginary landscape created out of blocks, furniture, and a fish tank.  This book has everything a child could want, including a satisfying ending: a boy asleep with his favorite toy train.

I can't help but end by sharing a rhyme that my boys love to act out.  I don't know the author, but we learned it at a library storytime.

This is a choo-choo train, chugging down the track.
See it going forward.  See it going back.
Hear the bell ringing.  Hear the whistle blow.
What a lot of noise it makes, everywhere it goes!

Now chug on over to the library and check out these great titles.  And don't forget to post your favorite train books!


  1. Wonderful list! Especially since I think I've worn out most of the E train books at our library. And resorted to reading chapter books out of JUV. My train lover repeatedly asks for "This Train" by Paul Collicutt. Illustrations are beautiful, simple text with opposites, great for a preschooler who wants to "read". Love it!

    1. Thanks,Kelly! I will definitely have to check out your pick.

  2. Love the Byron Barton books---- Machines at Work is an all time favorite :)

    Got you in my google reader! Looking forward to your book lists!!!

    :) Marissa

    1. Machines at Work is very popular here, too. Isn't it amazing how simple some books are, yet so full of texture, meaning, and playfulness?