- Hyperion Books, 2001
- Fiction; ages 3 – 5 (or anyone who thinks it’s fun to say “choo-choo”)
- Themes: trains, toys
- First line: “Sun’s Up, Morning’s Here. Up and at ’em, engineer.”
- PB&J Train Sandwich (if I made this, I think I might have to make it for every meal for.ever.and.ever)
- Painting with Trains! Guaranteed to be a hit in our house; now I just have to decide that some of our trains can get dirty.
- Toilet Paper Tube trains. I think I’ve said it before: I love a good tp tube craft. We always have them on hand!
So, duh, we love trains around here. Train books are pretty much the gold standard. Was Knuffle Bunny good? Yes. Would it have been better if it had featured a train? Yes. Obviously.
In honor of this train adoration, I offer up Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis for Perfect Picture Book Friday. It is a really fun read-aloud book. When we first heard it at a library storytime (o! storytime! how I miss you!), the librarian had all the kids say, “Chugga-chugga choo-choo!” with her while pulling an imaginary train whistle whenever the phrase appeared in the book. By the end of that reading, she had turned into the pied piper of the library; the children would have followed her anywhere. The pictures are pretty great, too, since they are about toys. I love seeing how other people imagine playing with toys that we have in our house, like blocks. It helps me out when I’m having those low-energy days. Or, you know, months.
I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but sometimes when I have read the same book forty or fifty times, I start to mentally take it apart and search for hidden meanings. Maybe this is just how the girl who loved English class deals with this all day mommy-time, I don’t know. Llama Llama Red Pajama, for example, appears to be about a single-parent family. And many of the workers in Roadwork seem to be women (they have ponytails at any rate, so I’m calling it). Did I notice that all the trucks in Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site are male? Yes, I did. And I was irritated. I know these examples aren’t exactly Jane Eyre-madwoman-in-the-attic, but you know, they help me get through another bedtime.
I don’t want to admit how many times I read Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo before I realized the human protagonist has dark skin. And that some of the toys, including a cowboy, do too. (I’m not using the term African-American because this story could take place anywhere around the world. And also, I don’t know how/if toys identify themselves as far as race/ethnicity.) These details make this book a little more special to me, especially since I think it is easy to lump trains into the realm of Thomas the Tank Engine and little Caucasian boys wearing engineer hats, when really, I know from personal experience that trains appeal to all kinds of kids. And some of them are not often represented in the pictures on the page. Example: an amazon search for “princess + train” reveals just one entry. Why?
Every time I discover something new/extra/hidden/special about a book, it makes it all the more interesting when I read it the next forty or fifty times.
Do you ever pick apart the kids books you read? Have you discovered anything interesting?