Book Review: Steam Train, Dream Train

Steam Train, Dream TrainSteam Train, Dream Train
By Sherri Duskey Rinker. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. 40 pp. Chronicle Books. $16.99.
(Picture book; ages 4 to 8)

When the team that created Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site published a new picture book Steam Train, Dream Train, I asked a local expert to assess it for accuracy: my husband, Jim. He loves trains.

Of course I already knew without his telling me, that freight trains don’t haul live dinosaurs. And I was pretty sure that boxcars aren’t loaded by a team of eager rabbits on pogo sticks, at least not in Illinois. But I wondered about the rest of it. After all, train enthusiasts, even the very young ones for whom this book was written, want and deserve accurate information.

It turns out that the author and illustrator know their trains. In addition to boxcars, there are hoppers, tankers, reefers (no not that kind–refrigerator cars), gondolas, autoracks, well cars, and flatbeds. Who cares if it’s turtles who are loading race cars onto the autorack and if a sleepy wolf is tucked in with his teddy bear on the flatbed? They add to the book’s charm, which is considerable.

Jim also approved of the line that reads, “The train’s departing, car by car,” which he says is exactly what freight trains do because the engine can’t pull the weight of the entire train all at once. Apparently it’s an issue of momentum.

He did not like it that the engineer is referred to as a “driver.” That’s British and this is clearly an American train. I think it might be that the word “driver” fit the meter of the verse better than “engineer” did.

The verse, by the way, is not only engaging, it fits the story beautifully, picking up speed as the engine roars into town and fading softly away as the train steams quietly into the moonlit night. And that moonlit night is beautiful, as are the illustrations on every page: soothing, magical shades of blue, just right for a bedtime story. The last page shows a sleeping boy in his bed, the moonlight streaming in his bedroom window, and a train set on the floor.

“Steam train, dream train…
chhhhhh…goodnight.”

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