Each month my son and I faithfully set up his calendar and talk about important events happening in the coming weeks. For the month of April, a date of key importance was April 16th. Why April 16th? It was the day Steam Train, Dream Train, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, would be released. We could not wait to read this book by the author of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, which is a staple in our bedtime reading rotation. We were also thrilled that the illustrator of GGCS would also illustrate Steam Train, Dream Train. If you do not know Tom Lichtenheld’s work, you definitely need to check him out. As a team, I think these two talented children’s book phenoms have landed another winner!
Steam Train, Dream Train immediately caught my almost four-year-old’s attention because it is about a train. It didn’t hurt that there is a giraffe on the cover with his head towering above the train as it pokes out of the top of the caboose. (Giraffes are my son’s favorite animals). As we started to read, he had comments for every page, and I knew we were on the right “track”… The rhyming text allows for children to anticipate words coming next and to engage with the text. The illustrations provide a wonderful canvas for the imagination as well. As we read for the first time, I heard comments about the headlight signaling that the train was coming through the darkness, the elephants who spouted paint into tanker cars, balls dumped into the hopper by an excavator, and delighted shrieks when my son noticed that monkeys were carrying monkey bars into a boxcar! For a child with a blossoming imagination, this book is sheer joy. Each time we read it, my son notices something else. The last page shows a bedroom with a sleeping child and a train track on the floor. The train is ready for another trip around the track in the morning. My son always points out the steam from the “dream train” that is visible through the window on that last page.
This morning, before the crack of dawn, my son woke up and was ready for the day to begin. We told him he needed to stay in bed for a little while longer. He asked for books in his bed, as he often does. Through the monitor we could hear him tooting his train whistle and chuffing down the track as he “read” Steam Train, Dream Train to himself. These are the moments I try to write down to always remember…when young children truly engage with a book and just can’t wait another minute to see it again. Books like Steam Train, Dream Train and Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site will be the ones I save to read to my grandchildren someday and tell them how their Daddy loved to read them over and over again. Thank you, Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld for the part you play in making lifelong readers! It is a gift.