All aboard for the best train books for kids!
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When I think of children’s train books, I immediately think of The little engine that could. I don’t know when was the last time I heard this book, but I still remember two things: “chug, chug, chug” and “I think I can, I think I can, I think that I can. ”
Apparently nothing else in the story stuck with me other than that there was a problem and the train overcame it. However, considering that I heard it decades ago, I’m quite impressed to have the slightest memory of it. Recently I revisited it and realized there was more to the story than the little parts I remember. I enjoyed it very much. It has a great lesson in persistence and self-confidence, and it’s still a good read, even for an adult.
Of course, there are many more children’s train books out there than this one. Below is a list of some of the best that I have found for your train enthusiasts. These are primarily aimed at young readers, but there are a few mid-level reads as well, in case you need a slightly longer train book to dig into.
Freight Train Plank Book by Donald Crews
This is a Caldecott Honor book by Donald Crews that describes how trains work. A classic that belongs to any collection, the simple language and bold graphics will appeal to young readers and adults alike. It is available in paperback or hardback version.
Alphabetical Trains by Samantha R. Vamos and Ryan O’Rourke
This is an excellent alphabet book for the train-obsessed reader with a train (from various parts of the world) corresponding to each letter of the alphabet. It also includes endnotes so readers can learn a bit more about each of the trains featured in the book.
I am Kim Hyo-eun’s subway, translated by Deborah Smith
It’s an interesting picture book that looks at the Seoul subway and focuses not only on the train, but also on stations and passengers. The metro is a character just like some people who use its cars every day. Accompanied by beautiful watercolors, it is also available in the Korean original.
Jodie Callaghan and Georgia Lesley’s Train
This book is not so much about trains as it is about what a train can take away from a community. Written by Mi’gmaq writer Jodie Callaghan and illustrated by Georgia Lesley, this book tells the story of residential schools and the intergenerational trauma that followed, all in a way young readers can understand and absorb. . The book is very moving and includes a reader’s note at the end of the more than 150,000 Aboriginal children who have been sent to residential schools in Canada.
Peace Train by Yusuf Cat Stevens and Peter H. Reynolds
This book takes Yusuf Cat Stevens’ famous 1971 song “Peace Train” and renders it in book form. It’s full of beautiful illustrations and has a timeless message of hope. If you’re not entirely convinced with the idea, you can even listen to Stevens sing the book here and make your own decision that way.
Brian Floca’s locomotive
This book is a Caldecott Medal winner which takes a more historical look at the locomotive and the experience of a family taking the train in the 1860s. Although I don’t like the train being called “she” ( with a male engineer who “knows his moods and temperaments”) and thinks there are missed opportunities in the text, there is a lot to do here for readers who want to know more about how trains have been used in the past.
Overground Railroad by Lesa Cline-Ransom and James Ransome
This follows a girl, Ruth Ellen, as she travels with her family from the rural southern United States to New York as part of the Great Migration, which occurred from around 1916 to 1970 in the United States. beautiful illustrations and a moving story told from Ruth Ellen’s Point of View makes this title a winner. If you like this book, you can also check out other works by Cline-Ransom like Before She Was Harriet.
Training books for children who are intermediate level readers
Evelyn Coleman’s Freedom Train
This is an intermediate-level reading, the title of which comes from a train that traveled to the United States between 1947 and 1949, making available to the average citizen key documents on democracy and the history of the United States. United States. The story revolves around 12-year-old Clyde Thomason, his family and friends, especially his newfound friendship with another boy, William Dobbs, who is black.
The train to places impossible by PG Bell
This is the first train book in a series about Suzy Smith, an 11-year-old girl who loves science and mysteries, and suddenly discovers a train running through her hallway downstairs. For a quick tour of the characters, watch the author’s video about them here. With a lot of magic and trolls, this might appeal to quite a few readers. So far there are two more books in the series, so if you find that you like this one, there is more to dive in!
The Thief Highland Falcon by MG Leonard
This is another mid level train playing game. The main character, Harrison Beck, is an 11-year-old boy who reluctantly joins his uncle Nat on a train trip from London to Scotland. Along the way, a priceless brooch is stolen and Harrison discovers that he has a mystery to solve with the help of new friends he made on his trip. This book is also part of a series. With four books to date, this can be a good place to start for young readers who like to solve an old-fashioned mystery.
And that’s it for my list of children’s train books! My personal favorites are those of Kim Hyo-eun I am the metro and that of Jodie Callaghan The train. I hope you will also find titles there that you like. If you’re still looking for more, you might want to check out this list of six picture books with vehicles.