“Chooch” was one of my son’s first words. It was his version of the sound a train makes. His favorite bedtime song began: “They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight,” and if you have a little train lover at your house, you know the rest. There’s no denying young kids’ fascination with trains, and there’s no shortage of classic and new train books to help you enjoy the ride.
by Watty Piper; illustrated by Dan Santat (Penguin Young Readers, April 7, 2020)
This year marks the 90th anniversary of the beloved classic, which has been reimagined by a Caldecott Award-winning artist. The book includes a foreword written by singer/songwriter Dolly Parton. “On many occasions, when my dream seemed far away, my Mama would tell me the story of the Little Engine to comfort and encourage me,” she writes. “While I listened to her, I would close my eyes and think of myself as the Little Engine and just start saying over and over again, ‘I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.’ It gave me strength, it gave me hope, and it gave me the courage to keep chasing my dreams.”
by Nichole Mara; illustrated by Andrew Kolb (Abrams Appleseed, 2019)
This accordion-style board book folds out car by car, taking kids on a tour of an airport train and terminal. There are flaps to lift on every page, and readers are asked to help a girl find a missing ticket as they are introduced to all the passengers on board.
by Carron Brown and Bee Johnson (Kane Miller, 2015)
This book in the publisher’s Shine-A-Light series includes hidden pictures beneath dark pages, revealed only when someone shines a flashlight on the pages, or holds them up to a light source. It’s an interactive book that’s full of surprises as kids peek into the boxcars of a freight train, the cabin of a passenger train, and other places.
by Donald Crews (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, 1992)
Readers follow a group of children who decide to take a shortcut home along the railroad tracks. When a train comes, they have to move fast, and end up on an adventure.
by Margaret Wise Brown; pictures by Greg Pizzoli (HarperCollins, 2020)
Margaret Wise Brown’s text, originally published in 1949, is paired with updated illustrations by a Geisel Award-winning artist. The simple story with sparse text follows two different trains on the same journey west, through a wide variety of landscapes and weather conditions, until, as the story goes, “they had come to the edge of the west.”
by Kristyn Crow; illustrated by Annie Won (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2020)
Avid readers of The Polar Express and Steam Train, Dream Train will enjoy this whimsical new bedtime story filled with colorful animals. There’s a clickety-clack rhythm throughout the story, as kids meet a toucan ticket-taker, an elephant engineer, and other animals.
by Skila Brown and Jamey Christoph (Candlewick, 2019)
A favorite of a Denver Public Library children’s librarian, Clackety Track features trains of all shapes and sizes, including a bullet train, sleeper train, and an underground train. Vintage-style illustrations are paired with poems: Rows of grooves, cables, and bars. / Graffiti rockin’ out the cars. / A badge of rust. A proud oil stain. / There’s nothin’ plain about a train.
Book experts and librarians also recommend:
- The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
- Locomotive by Brian Floca
- Subway Story by Julie Sarcone-Roach
- Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
- Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
- How Trains Work by Clive Gifford; illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock
- The Goodnight Train by June Sobel; illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith
- Freight Train by Donald Crews
- How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton; illustrated by John Rocco
- Look Inside Trains by Alex Frith
- All Aboard the Dinotrain by Deb Lund; illustrated Howard Fine
- Where Do Steam Trains Sleep at Night? by Brianna Caplan Sayres; illustrated by Christian Slade
- The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter and Tibor Gergely
- My Subway Ride by Paul Dubois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender; illustrated by Selina Alko
- Trainstop by Barbara Lehman
- Steam, Smoke, and Steel by Patrick O’Brien
- Subway by Christoph Niemann