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The Children's Bookshelf: Let's Build a Little Train - November 6, 2022

Let’s Build a Little Train written by Julia Richardson and illustrated by Ryan O’ Rourke is a happy, colorful, interesting and lively picture book about the steam engine. It was part of the long ago when it replaced horse drawn ways of moving materials across the county.

Told in rhyme, the red and green engine with its powerful smokestack, shiny gold bell, red cattle catcher, and huge wheels begins to roll. “The driver climbs the ladder and dons her cap of blue. She hollers ‘All aboard!’ and pulls the whistle, too.”

Young readers are reminded that this useful invention started with a designer, lots of drawings, and perfect calculations. The illustration of the driver’s cabin, the coupling system, the smokestack, and the cattle catcher make a nifty visual impact. All eleven double spreads will stretch across the reader’s eyes and imagination.

The back material is also full of pictures, photographs and definitions of such important things as the boiler, the caboose, coal, and the pistons.

Let’s Build a Little Trainwritten by Julia Richardson and illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke is full of a little history, a little lore and lots of fun for young readers 4-8 years of age as they ride the rails with the “Chugga, Chugga, Choo, Choooo!” that runs merrily through the story.

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org. (Sleeping Bear Press, 2022).

Activity Questions for Let’s Build a Little Train

After listening to this story ask your siblings and parents to join you in some movement fun. First everyone will have to select which train car they each want to be. Then, after clearing a path with the help of Mom and Dad, form a line and prepare to move around the room as those cars. Whomever decides to be the engine will have to lead the way. Don’t forget to make noise as you move around the room! You can start with the ringing sound of the bell! Then, add the hiss of steam and the heavy sound of the wheels as the train gets underway. Everyone will want to join in on “Chugga, Chugga Chooo, Chooooo!” as the train makes its way around the tracks.

Older readers will enjoy studying the nine official photographs in the back material for further information. Where did the crew eat and sleep? What protected the train from a variety of things that could be on the track? What was used as fuel for these trains? What was the Bogie and why was it important?

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.