Railroads & Locomotives: Three Childrens Books About Trains

All Aboard!

Coming down the tracks and headed straight into the hands of young enthusiasts, are three new picture books about trains. If you have little engineers in your life, the ones who sleep with trains under their pillows, who hear the whistle from miles away, who build tracks from one end of the house to the other, then check out these exciting books. Featuring both modern and vintage trains, and artwork that transports the reader to railroads near and far, these books will have train lovers wanting to climb aboard.

Locomotive is a rich work by award-winning book creator, Brian Floca. From the moment you connect with the striking portrait of a regal locomotive on the cover, you are transported back through time, to the summer of 1869. Endpapers set the stage with an overview of the trans-continental railroad including a map, history, and small vignettes. Then the title page reveals another more personal layer to the story – a family photo, a railroad guide, and a telegram from Papa saying all is ready in California, come soon. From the beginning, the book has multiple dimensions: it is a fictional story of a mother and her two children boarding a steam train in Omaha, Nebraska, and riding the rails all the way across the country to San Francisco; and it is a nonfictional story of the transcontinental railroad, its history, and landscape, of the steam locomotive herself, her mechanical wonders and the people who kept her and the railroads running. The large size of the book enhances its full sensory effect and is worthy of housing the story of the powerful locomotive. Lyrical, rhythmic text, with lettering that often changes in size and color to help tell the story, brings the whole experience to life. Illustrations are done in watercolor, ink, acrylic, and gouache are often startling in their perspective and emotional renderings. Long notes and resources at the back provide more historical information, including how the trans-continental railroad impacted Native Americans. This is an incredible piece of work and a keeper for all railroad enthusiasts, no matter what their age.

  • Locomotive by Brian Floca. A Richard Jackson Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-4169-9415-2


 

Train by accomplished children’s book author and illustrator, Elisha Cooper, is a full-color riding adventure. The journey begins right on the title page, where people are milling about a train station in an air of excitement and expectancy. Turning the page, we are inside, on the platforms, trains standing by as passengers get off and on, and finally, the conductor shouts, “All aboard!” Our first ride is on a red-striped commuter train. At the top of the page the train is pictured within its urban landscape, and at the bottom, we get an inside view of the train cars. As the commuter train slows into a station, a big blue passenger train roars past, and we catch a ride all the way to a mid-west city where we hop on an orange freight train. We ride through fields of wheat and stretches of prairie, and as a green overnight train passes, we hop aboard. This train climbs the Rocky Mountains and moves through the moonlight as guests eat dinner in a dining car, and two little girls unfold their beds. In the morning a white high-speed train passes by and we jump onto our last leg of the trip, tracking all the way into a coastal city, where the train finally comes to a stop and we disembark. The text is full of sound and scent and descriptive sights, for a rich sensory experience. The illustrations in watercolor and pencil lend the book a soft tone, but don’t slow down the loco-motion. Train lovers will enjoy the trip!

  • Train by Elisha Cooper. Orchard Books, 2013. ISBN: 978-0-545-38495-7

Line 135 comes to us from Switzerland by way of Chronicle Books. In this uniquely drawn story, a girl takes a long train ride to visit her grandmother. Simple lines rendered in black pen on lots of white space offer an unusual diversion from most picture books. The book opens with a black line stretching across a white double-page spread, and two tiny figures – a mother and daughter – walking toward the next page. We see the girl board a green and orange passenger train, the only splash of color in an urban landscape. Through double-page spreads, the train maintains a steady forward momentum, never ceasing to move down the line as it cuts through diverse landscapes and seemingly different countries. The girl is the only visible passenger on the train, which helps keep the focus on her story, which is told in a single line at the bottom of each spread. As the train moves through highways, suburbs, towns, open spaces, wetlands, woods, enchanted spaces with castles teetering on towers of stone, past otherworldly creatures, fields and flowers, she explains how even though her mother and grandmother tell the girl it is impossible to see the whole world – she is too little, there’s not enough time, it will be too hard – the girl insists it is possible. The story ends much like it began, with a single black line running across a white double-page spread, and the girl and her grandmother walking off together. More than just a train travel book, LINE 135 is about dreaming big.

  • Line 135 written by Germano Zullo, illustrated by Albertine. Chronicle Books, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-4521-1934-2

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

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