Written by Tirzah Baker
This month, the Museum is full of trains zooming overhead and the sounds of children shrieking with delight as they explore our exhibition, Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection—and we’re going train crazy, too! We’ve got tons of train-themed story times and activities for the next two months.
As the DiMenna Children’s History Museum’s Early Childhood Educator, I’ve been conducting a ton of (fun) research to find the very best train picture books for you. I’ve narrowed down the list to my top ten favorites that you won’t want to miss.
- That’s Not My Train…by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells
This is a great bedtime story for toddlers—it’s a fast read about a cute little mouse and all the trains he finds that are not his. Each page has an interactive touch and feel component for multi-sensory learning. A fun experience and story to enjoy together!
- Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis, Illustrated by Daniel Kirk
This is the story of a toy train hard at work all day long as the engineer drives up mountains, through tunnels, and all over the playroom. I love this book because it’s easy for young learners to understand but still engages older train enthusiasts. Plus, children love to point out the toys they recognize in the illustrations.
Join us at Little New Yorkers (ages 3–5 and their caregivers) on December 13 and 16 at 3:30 pm to play with our historic train toy set, listen to a reading aloud of Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo, and decorate a train engineer hat of your very own!
- Train by Mike Vago, Illustrated by Matt Rockefeller
Take a journey across the country! This book comes with a small toy train that you can interact with and drive through each page. I love the vivid illustrations of the many types of landscapes that make up the United States. It’s perfect to read snuggled up at bedtime.
Purchase a copy of this book from our newly renovated museum shop, the NYHistory Store.
- My Little Train by Satomi Ichikawa
A little toy train chugs through stacks of books, up the side of the living room couch, and under the kitchen chairs to reunite a baby kangaroo with his mama. This sweet story will inspire children to see the endless opportunities for imaginative play in their own house.
- The Caboose Who Got Loose by Bill Peet
All Katy Caboose wants is a quiet life on the countryside. She hates being dragged along as the last train car, choking on engine smoke and scared to death of twists and turns on the train tracks! One day Katy’s dreams come true when she is sprung free from the train and sets out on the adventure of her life. This book is full of intricate rhymes and a happy ending.
- Shark Vs. Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld
This book is bound to capture anyone’s attention! Read along as a ferocious shark and a fierce train compete like siblings to determine who is the most powerful. Cartoon-like illustrations guide the reader through this epic battle.
Who is victorious? Find out at Sunday Story Time on December 10 at 11:30 am.
- The Rain Train by Elena De Roo, Illustrated by Brain Lovelock
This book is great for a cozy rainy day at home. Each page brings the story to life by describing the sounds of the train, its passengers, and the thunderstorm outside. It’s a great book for interaction, too—I invite children to repeat the sounds with their voices, hands, and feet as we read.
Hear this story at Sunday Story Time on January 29 at 11:30 am.
- The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper, Illustrated by Loren Long
When no one will help the toys get over the mountain, the little blue engine saves the day. Though she’s small, she is determined to succeed! This story encourages all readers to challenge themselves and think positively.
The Little Engine that Could will be featured during our December School Vacation Week from Monday, December 26 – Monday, January 2.
- How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton, Illustrated by John Rocco
Do you have a pet goldfish or dog at home? What about a pet train? This how-to book explains catching, training, and caring for your very own pet train. Grown-ups and kids alike find this story funny and engaging.
- The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
I couldn’t help selecting this classic Caldecott Medal-winning book as my top choice. Everybody knows it, but it will never grow old. I loved this book so much as kid that I even asked for my very own bell from Santa’s sleigh for Christmas—and I still have it! It is nostalgic for adults and thrillingly imaginative for kids.
Join us for Sunday Story Time on December 18 at 11:30 am, and be ready for the adventure of your life to the North Pole!