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Innovative and Entertaining Presentation of Train History
on August 6, 2004
When my son found this book at the local library, I couldn't wait to write a gushing review. I am really delighted with this book. The more we read it together, the more impressed I am with the author and illustrator.
This book is organized so that you go back in time, viewing the trains of earlier and earlier generations. (This is much more interesting than it sounds. Stay with me!) The narrator is a boy who says that when he goes up, he wants to drive a train like his dad. Then we hear about how his dad also wanted to be an engineer because that is what HIS father was, and so forth. We are brought back in time all the way to the earliest American trains (and the boy's great great great great great grandfather--kids love the repetition too). The final scene is a futuristic train that the boy imagines driving when he grows up.
Every other page spread on the book contains short text about a child wanting to drive trains like his father (or mother in one case!) and a gorgeous illustration of a train. If you look carefully, you'll see that every scene is shown from the exact same vantage point, with the same mountains in the background. Not only do the trains change, but so do the stations, the tracks, and the buildings around them. The illustration style is lush, and every one of these images features a different cat somewhere in the scene. My son loves to search for them.
The alternating page spreads contain extended text and additional images about the era of train history depicted on the previous page. I have read many, many books on trains because my son gobbles up anything we can find on them, and yet I learned many new things from this book. For instance, did you know that when multiple engines are used to pull a train, they are called a "consist"? Or that brakemen on old trains had to run along the tops of the cars to set the brakes on each one manually? The level of detail is not a whole lot greater than most other non-fiction train books for kids, but it seems to find the most unique and telling details.
I would recommend this book for any train child ages 3 and up. You won't mind reading this one over and over. For younger children, just read the text on alternating pages and the captions of the pictures on the more detailed sections.