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Best Children's Books About Trains - Including Some You've Probably Never Heard Of Before
When Your Child Loves Trains... Everything Has to Be About Trains!
My sons are huge train fans. My first son was way into trains since he was very young, and for years he had a seemingly insatiable appetite for books about trains. Every time we would go to the library or a bookstore, we spend the whole time searching for new books about trains. My second son is more into the things his older brother is into, and my six year old is now not as into trains (Legos rule now!). But even so, my older and younger son still from time to time love building train tracks and playing together (both Brio and Dinosaur Train tracks, and Brio, Chuggington, Thomas, and Dinosaur Train trains). And it's interesting to see my younger one at times seek trains out on his own. They just seem to be incredibly compelling to young people, especially those under age four.
I figured the expertise I've gained about train books could be shared with others - I am a huge fan of children's books myself, and I like reading books that we will all enjoy - me and my sons.
Some of the books I recommend are more popular, and some I didn't come across until after much searching. One is sadly out of print, but is one of my favorite books from my childhood, and now my son's favorite bedtime book. I hope this list and these short reviews will give some good ideas for other parents of children who love trains, or anyone looking for a great gift for a train loving young person.
My Favorite Train Book: There's a Train Going by My Window
This book was published in 1982 and is now out of print, sadly. I loved this book as a child. It has a beautiful rhythm, beautiful and detailed pictures, and an exciting story of a girl traveling around the world and meeting and playing with various animals, until the train brings her home so she can go to sleep. There is so much I love about this book. One great feature is that the central character is a girl. Most books about trains seem to have boys as the central characters, and as a girl myself, I loved seeing another girl go on the train ride.
The pictures are also so fun and imaginative, I felt like I was transported to another place as a child, and I still do. On one page, she parachutes with the puffins in a sky filled with rainbows. To this day, that page makes me happy. My son has already learned a lot of the words to the book due to the rhythmic quality. He loves it when I stop and let him fill in the last few words. I also think it's a perfect length - long enough, but not too many words on each page, and doesn't go on forever.
In short, I think this is the perfect book in every way.
Other Wonderful Books About Trains for Toddlers
Chugga Chugga Choo Choo
I discovered this one at a local play place in Berkeley, and my son always gravitated towards it. The hard cover version and the board book appear to be the same, but I have not gone page by page to confirm. The language is really beautiful and rhythmic - very fun to read. The pictures are also nice and detailed so there's lots to talk about on every page.
The main characters are a toy boy and a toy engineer, and my son loves to pretend that he is the boy riding along with the engineer. It ends with the boy who owns all the toys going to sleep with his train engine and all his toys sleeping around him, so it works nicely as a bedtime book.
This is the most simple by far of all these books, but it's a wonderful first book. This was one of the very first books that my son loved to have read to him over and over. It's just a mouse (Maisy) and her friends going on a ride through the countryside, through a tunnel, and back to the station. Along the way they say hello to the various animals they see. It's very simple and colorful. There are also other books about Maisy, so it can be a fun character for your child to get to know. As far as I know, it's only a board book.
This book actually has no words at all, and is set up sort of like a graphic novel (but with only graphics!). A girl rides on the subway with her parents, ends up out in the country, and ends up going on a little adventure to help some small toy people get their friends out of a tree. She then rides home on the train with her parents (who were asleep through her adventure) and they walk to their apartment through the city. At the end, the toy people fly in their little plane and bring her a tree to plant outside her apartment.
It's fun to read this book and make up whatever you want, though it's more challenging when you just want to veg out! I think kids who have ridden on urban train systems will particularly like this book (my son likes that it looks like the BART train in Oakland). It's also nice because it has a central female character.
I've Been Working on the Railroad
This one is fun because it attempts to illustrate the somewhat incomprehensible lyrics of this traditional song! It imagines a boy riding up with the engineer (always a popular theme with my son!), and everyone traveling through the night to Dinah's diner where she blows her horn when it's breakfast time. The pictures aren't particularly beautiful, but they are fun.
The Rain Train
We liked this one as well, but I do think it's for a slightly older audience. The pictures are a little more impressionistic, and the language is a little advanced, even for me. It's very poetic, so children may just like the sounds of the words even if they don't know what they mean. It's about children getting on a train on a rainy night, sleeping on the train, and then coming back home. Really the point of the book is the poetry, not the plot or the pictures.
This one is very simple but kids seem to just love it. Nice bright and clear pictures and colors. Simple language, but it is somehow really captivating. It did win the Caldecott medal, so apparently my son is not the only kid who loves it! They read it at his school and we read it at home and he never seems to tire of it. I think this one would make an especially nice present for a toddler.
Of these train books, which had you already heard of?
Thomas the Train and Friends
This hub includes some discussion of the many books about Thomas the Train and Friends.
And So Many More...
There are so many more books that include pictures of trains, even if they aren't solely focused on trains, but I will keep this somewhat focused and stop here. I also left out the whole category of books about Thomas the Train and Friends, but that could be a whole additional topic.
Please share if you have other favorite train books for toddlers, or comments on any of the above!