31 Days, Children's Books

Tootle, Choo Choo, and Other Literary Trains

There are some little boys who love trucks and some who love trains and some who love both. My little boy tends toward the truck side, but he is definitely a train fan, too. A few of our favorite train books are:

TootleTootle is a book published in 1945 that many adults hate. Yes, that’s right, some adults spend their emotions on hating a cute Little Golden Book. Okay, so I am not beyond strongly disliking certain children’s books. But I like this one. It’s about a little engine named Tootle, who shows a lot of promise to be the fast Flyer from New York to Chicago when he grows up. He has to get through engine school first, where Engineer Bill teaches him all the important things, especially staying on the rails no matter what. Tootle has a hard time learning this lesson, but learn it he does. Many reviewers on Goodreads say this book is about McCarthy-ism, or it’s about conforming to standards, or maybe it’s just bad because Tootle doesn’t get severely punished. Apparently, it can’t please anyone. I think it’s just a good story about a little engine who gets distracted from his goals and learns a lesson. If every children’s book has to be my life’s beliefs in a nutshell, I wouldn’t read children’s books. My kids love this one, my husband loves it, and I think it’s fun and adorable. So if your children like trains, read Tootle to them and don’t worry overmuch that they’ll hate nature and become a cold hearted industrialist.

We also love The Wonder Book of Trains, which follows an engine collecting different kinds of cars to make up its trains.

Choo ChooMy daughter really loves Choo Choo by Virginia Lee Burton. I think the love that Choo Choo’s crew has for her is touching. It reminds me how children want to test the limits and taste adventure, but they want their parents to love them afterwards and forgive mistakes, too. Especially at age four.

I’m Taking A Trip On My Train is a fun book that replaces key words with symbols as the book goes along so that children can feel like they’re taking part in the reading. It has a nice rhythm to it, as well. My daughter started enjoying this with her Grammy at age 2 and now my son is working on following along.

Honorable mentions to:

Trains by Byron Barton

Freight Train by Donald Crewes

I Love Trains by Philemon Sturges

This is Day 20 of the 31 Days of Picture Books series. To see the rest, go here.


31 Days, Children's Books

Introducing Young Children to Art Through Picture Books

I don’t have a strong background in art. I was raised in the pre-Baby Einstein days, after all. Before my college art history class, I could recognize a Monet or a variety of children’s book illustrators (Mercer Mayer, for instance), but that was my extent of art culture. As I raise my children now, I am in awe of the wee ones’ art knowledge. The other day, Ella told me she was drawing a picture that looked like van Gogh. Holy cow! That child came from me? I think it’s awesome that there are so many resources for bringing art and music into our children’s sphere of interest. Yes, a lot of the credit for our art knowledge goes to the T.V. show Little Einsteins, which we stumbled upon by accident in our library’s DVD collection. Now we don’t leave the library without one, and if we do, well, there’s always Youtube.

392176There are some great books that have made my daughter fascinated by art, too. You’ve probably heard of the Fancy Nancy series by Jane O’Conner and illustrated by Robin Priess Glasser, but did you know that your child will talk to you about Jackson Pollock after reading Fancy Nancy, Aspiring Artist? Or that she will want to cut out shapes and make a picture like the ones by Henri Matisse? (true story). Our favorite book series on art is the Katie series by James Mayhew. It’s about a girl named Katie and her art museum adventures. Our favorite is Katie and the Impressionistsfollowed closely by Katie and the Spanish Princess. These books give readers a feel for a certain era or style in art. If you’re looking for books about specific painters, I’ve heard great things about the “Getting to Know The World’s Greatest Artists” series. The blog Mrs. Picasso’s Art Room has many more great ideas about books on artists.

I’m not set on force feeding art history to my children or anything. It’s something my oldest has become interested in, so I’m going with it. I think it’s fun and I can’t wait until she’s old enough to take really enjoy our city’s art museum.  At this point, I’m doing my best to pick out fun children’s books with quality illustrations. I know quality art is often a matter of opinion, and I want my children to appreciate all kinds. But for now, I try to stay away from elaborate stick figures or those books that remind me of that TV show Rugrats.


We’re going to stick with Jessie Wilcox Smith, Tasha Tudor, Virginia Lee Burton, and other great artists and Caldecott Medal winners and nominees.

What are your thoughts on teaching art to your kids and art in children’s literature? This is a new topic for me, so I’d love some advice.

This is Day 8 in the series 31 Days of Picture Books. To see the rest of the posts, go here.


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