Having written a post that catered to C’s current passion (the Octonauts and all things sea-related), I thought it only fair to follow up with one that did the same for H, who is VERY into trains at the moment. He calls them toot-toots, so this post is dedicated to his top ten toot-toot books! Enjoy 🙂
1) ‘The Cat, the Mouse and the Runaway Train’ by Peter Bently, illustrated by Steve Cox (published by Hodder Children’s Books)
We were sent this book a month or so ago and it’s been requested regularly ever since. It’s an absolutely mouthwatering delight to read out loud and the rhyming phrases help to move the story along at a train-track-twisting pace, as do the regular time checks – the action takes place over a matter of minutes.
The plot details the actions of a fiesty little mouse who outwits the station master and his cat and makes a bid for freedom, only to find herself drawn into a death-defying last minute rescue when her (yes, HER – the main character is a clever, imaginative, brave and spontaneous girl mouse 🙂 ) arch nemesis, the cat, finds himself trapped on the tracks. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but needless to say it’s a happy one.
H enjoys the story enormously, as does C, but what makes him even happier is looking at the multiple double page spreads of the engines hurtling along. The illustrations remind me of Axel Scheffler’s work in that they are bright and colourful but with texture as well, so that they have depth and subtlety. (As usual, my descriptions of artwork will leave you in no doubt about the fact that I’m a complete amateur!!!)
This is a great adventure story even if you aren’t obsessed by trains, but if you are then it’s an absolute MUST read 🙂
2) ‘The Train‘ by Witold Generowicz
We reviewed this loft treasure quite a while ago (you can read the post here) and still get this book out regularly just to marvel at its wordless wondrousness and to make up yet another exciting train story. The boys love the novelty factor of unravelling all the pages, but even once we’ve got over that we still have oodles of fun using it as a stimulus for our own storytelling.
We bought this book after borrowing it from the library many times and we read it a LOT. It’s beautifully designed (I feel like framing each page to put on H’s wall) and the illustrations are perfect for allowing younger children to focus on the action, as the large expanses of white in each spread don’t distract from vividly coloured engines and carriages on each page. A great book for colour recognition as well, with each carriage being depicted in a single colour. Fab!
The level of detail in the illustrations within this book is absolutely mesmerising, as are the various different sounds the train makes as it travels along and picks up its interesting collection of passengers. The boys loved seeing who was in each new carriage and found the ‘twist’ with the parrot at the end especially funny!
A gentle book about the perils of overloading your carriages (a problem C and H encounter daily while playing with the wooden train set) , though luckily it all turns out well and there is a delicious ending for everyone. The boys enjoyed the ridiculously exaggerated shopping lists of each animal and I liked the positive and practical attitude towards solving the problem of the overloaded (and subsequently derailed) train. The repeated train noises give this extra oomph as a read-aloud book 🙂
6) ‘Ocean Star Express‘ by Mark Haddon, illustrated by Peter Sutton
We picked this up over a year ago in our local Oxfam book shop but have only just fallen in love with it properly. It is a truly wonderful story about the power of imagination, as well as being a celebration of all things miniature. My dad’s dad (my Bumpa) was very keen on model railways so this tale has a nostalgic element for me, but what I like most about it is that illustrates the magic that can happen when children are allowed to get bored. I’m not suggesting that we ignore children and leave them to their own devices all day (I think mine would go feral in a matter of hours if they weren’t properly fed and told to Just. Slow. Down. on a regular basis…) but more that it doesn’t matter if, once they are old enough to be safe, we don’t rush in to fill every spare second of their time.
For those who are reading this in the hope of more train ‘action’, rest assured that this book won’t let you down. The illustrations are gorgeous and are sort of ‘soft-focusy’ in a way that reminds of the bit in ‘The Sound of Music’ when Maria and the children are striding across the mountains in their curtain outfits (this last sentence may only mean something to my sister, but I had to indulge myself 🙂 ). A super book.
If I’m honest, this train book doesn’t float my boat as much as some of the others do, but clearly I know nothing as the boys really enjoy this story about the little red train who is persuaded into action when the roads are blocked by a big traffic jam, meaning several important deliveries could be delayed. The plucky red train leaps to the rescue and shows people just how useful it can be. There are plenty of spreads in this featuring other forms of transport, so it’s a great one for those (like C and H) who are partial to vehicles other than trains as well.
Words cannot describe how much we love ‘Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site’ by the same team that created this book, so when I found out that they’d written a train tale I couldn’t track (boom boom) it down fast enough. The illustrations (which the book notes tell me were rendered in Neocolour wax oil pastels on Mi-Teintes paper, for those of you to whom that will mean something (not me then!) ) are similarly striking and the boys instantly recognised that it was by the same people who’d made one of their most treasured tomes.
It’s another simple story about a train having its carriages and containers filled with all sorts of colourful and exciting goodies, but the rhyming text in this book really stands out for me and I could read it over and over again with much happiness. This book also has a subtle nod to the fact that it might actually be the story of what a toy train gets up to while you sleep, which adds to the magic 🙂
9) ‘Ivor the Engine Storybook‘ by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin
This book is one of M’s loft treasures and hasn’t yet been read by C and H, so its inclusion here is purely on the strength of M raving about how much he enjoyed it as a child. Having skim read some of it, it does look like a LOT of fun and I will be gently encouraging the boys to select this one sooner rather than later. Perhaps it will even inspire its very own loft treasures post (she says, guiltily eyeing up all the other loft treasure posts already stored in this blog’s drafts folder…).
10) ‘Thomas the Tank Engine – The Complete Collection‘ by The Rev. W. Awdry (please note that our copy was a charity shop find, so the cover differs from the newly released edition in the link above).
This anthology needs no introduction from me. I do love the fact that this book features the ‘original’ stories as I lose count of how many newer engines there are to keep up with (I think it’s about seventy?!?). Despite being heavy, this book has been invaluable when carted along to medical appointments, or indeed anywhere else where I might be required to keep the boys entertained for a long time in a small space.
If know of any other train books that you think I’ve missed, please do mention them in the comments below. I already know I’ve missed ‘The Little Engine That Could’ and am sure there are many others out there that C and H would love to hear about!
Disclaimer: I received my copy of ‘The Cat, the Mouse and the Runaway Train’ from the publishers. I was not asked to write this post, nor was I given any money for doing so, and the review represents my own honest opinion.