MSGL Book Reviews

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Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld
 Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

Do you know someone who loves trains? Then by all means, go buy or check out Steam Train, Dream Train. It was created by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld, the same team that brought us Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site. Lichtenheld's wax pastel illustrations are drawn with - I don't know how else to say it - the lights out? This is a tale told with the lights off. It's a bedtime story in the most literal sense.  

The story starts with the steam train pulling into the Night Falls Station where a great bunch of animals load it with cargo. Unlike their previous book, the vehicles in this story play it straight. Only the animals have faces. There are comforting similarities to my childhood copy of The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper in how the train is being loaded with stuff that a child finds important like toys and ice cream and sand. But this train does not have engine difficulties and as soon as it is loaded up the animals find a place to sleep as they go "chuffing" off into the night. 

Next to the dreamy illustrations, the best part is that Rinker introduces the names of the different kinds of rail cars with each turn of the page. I didn't know the difference between a well car and a gondola before reading this book, but now I do. And I was inspired to look up the rest of the cars, as well. Wikipedia has an exhaustive list, of course, of the different types of railroad cars with links to photos and descriptions. Chateau Meddybemps' What's in Those Train Cars? is just part of an awesome site with some very Montessori-type activities about trains. Even if you don't check out this book, be sure to check out that web site.


Your child might take in Lichtenheld's illustrations and anticipate the ending but I - always willing to believe - did not. It is a pleasant surprise that takes the reader seriously. And if you are comforted by a book that has 'educational' value for your child, Rinker offers new words like "chromy", "stow", and "convoy" to build your preschooler's vocabulary. 

This book was published in April, 2013 by Chronicle Books and is 40 pages. It is currently available in hardcover at Barnes & Noble in Lafayette and online at 

Happy Reading!


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