- Age Range: 5 - 7 years
- Grade Level: Kindergarten - 2
- Series: Golden Kite Awards
- Hardcover: 32 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; 1st edition (September 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0689826095
- ISBN-13: 978-0689826092
- Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.4 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #998,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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I Dream of Trains (Golden Kite Awards) Hardcover – September 1, 2003
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From School Library Journal
Grade 3-5-This powerfully illustrated picture book looks at legendary engineer Casey Jones through the eyes of a fictional black child who toils in a cotton field near the railroad tracks. In low, reverential tones, the text speaks both of the folk hero's mystique and the narrator's eagerness to experience Casey's big world. The man's status as a pioneering symbol of harmonious race relations appears within the story and in an eloquent epilogue suitable for older readers. Johnson's treatment of Casey's tragic, heroic death is particularly respectful and moving. Long's moody acrylic paintings, mainly in subdued tones, are a sterling accompaniment to the book's provocative prose.
Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
PreS-Gr. 2. To escape his backbreaking work in the Mississippi cotton fields, a young, nineteenth-century African American boy dreams of trains. His hero is Casey Jones, who, with his black engineer Sims Web, sounds a "soul-speaking whistle" as he drives his engines past the boy's fields, "dreaming me away." When Jones is killed in a wreck, loving Papa fills the boy with confidence that he'll still be able to explore the "big, wide world," even without Casey. Children may struggle with the sense of some of Johnson's spare poetic lines: "We are where we were and who we are," for example. But even if they can't grasp the full meaning, they will easily connect with the boy's deep yearning to escape and the quiet, atmospheric beauty of the language. Long's powerful acrylic paintings give an immediate sense of the boy's world: the sorrow of the workers in the hot fields; the thrill of the mighty, streaking trains; and the joy of imagined adventures. An interesting author's note adds more history about Casey Jones and the Great Migration. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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In this tale, a young male sharecropper dreams of trains. Caught in an existence that demands that he break his back picking cotton for hours each day, the boy spends what little free time he has walking the railroad tracks and thinking of the great conductor Casey Jones and his black fireman Sim Webb. For the boy, his imagination allows him to travel with Casey and leave far behind the land of his youth. Then, one day, he hears that Casey was involved in a terrible train accident. His hero collided head on with another train. When the boy asks his father if that means everything is over, the man replies, "No, there'll be other trains and engines", and he tells the boy about the vast nation out there. And his son knows that one day he'll take a train far from here and go out to find his place, "in the big wide world".
In her Afterword, Johnson notes that much of this book is based on historical fact. For many sharecroppers toiling away in the South, trains represented a real escape from a live of drudgery and pain. Perhaps Johnson gives herself a little too much freedom in assuming that the idea of the Great Migration came to them after watching Casey's engine, but you don't really mind it. For many adults reading this note, there's no denying that Ms. Johnson did her homework when she set out to write a meaningful train tale.
The illustrations are something as well. Loren Long, an illustrator who's work tends to grace periodicals mostly, employs some mighty fine acrylics here. The machines drawn are truly the trains of dreams. They're impossibly huge and swift. They move over rich multi-layered landscapes and are truly beautiful. The close-up of the narrator, wiping his neck in the field while his eyes gaze dreamily into the distance, is a wondrous picture in and of itself.
In the end, "I Dream of Trains" is a hopeful book. It could have easily come off as a work in which someone spends all their time dreaming and none of their time doing, but this potential pitfall is easily averted. Lovely to look at with a strong historical background and a noteworthy plot, this book stands apart from many of the usual train-related titles out there. A worthy purchase for any engine-obsessed young 'un.
I thought the story would be a bit mature and a little boring for my oldest(then 3), especially after all the Thomas books. But, to my happy surprise(yeah! Reprieve from reading Thomas!), it has become a family favorite. We still read it weekly. In fact, my middle son has asked to share the story at his preschool Superstar Day.
The illustrations are well done to my adult eye but they are a little dark and not particularly suited to the preschool set. By the way, I don't usually write reviews. However, this book so deeply bothered me that I felt compelled to warn others.