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Steam Train, Dream Train: Rinker & Lichtenheld

Book: Steam Train, Dream Train
Author: Sherri Duskey Rinker
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4 - 6

Steam Train, Dream Train is a second collaboration by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld, following their highly successful Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site. Steam Train, Dream Train is very similar in composition, with a mix of fact and whimsey centered around something that interests four to six year old boys.

In this case, a steam train stops in the middle of the night to be loaded up. Each type of car is shown, and is loaded differently according to what makes sense for that car type. In Steam Train, Dream Train, cars are loaded with things like toys, ice cream, and a trio of kangaroos. 

Rinker's rhyming text is clearly meant for bedtime reading. Steam Train, Dream Train bears a strong resemblance to The Goodnight Train by June Sobel (perhaps inevitable - there are only so many things that rhyme with the most common train-related words). But Steam Train, Dream Train is a bit longer, and drops in more facts. I personally found the text of Steam Train, Dream Train to drag a bit, though I imagine that the target audience will appreciate it. Here's a snippet:

"The driver signals
to the crew--
each worker knows
just what to do.
Before it gets too late,
start to load up
all the freight.

Everything will
soon be stowed,
a train car matched
to every load." 

The above text is accompanied by a picture of a fuzzy bear driving the train, while a green dinosaur, a purple elephant, a giraffe, and several other animals wait to load up the train. As in Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, Tom Lichtenheld's illustrations are a nice mix of soothing and entertaining. Steam Train, Dream Train doesn't have the glowing sunset images of the previous book (which I LOVED), but there is more overt humor. For instance, this page:

"Stacked up on the autorack:
six race cars for a private track!
Rainbow colors, flames, and strips,
shiny engines, chromy pipes.

The autorack
will gently keep
these fast, fast cars...

... all fast asleep.

The autorack contains five colorful racecars. A sixth is being loaded by a two-man crew of ... turtles. Why not, I say. The type of car is always shown in bold text, making clear the educational aspect of the book. But of course it's the gentle humor (a dinosaur reaching for a bone, a giraffe riding with his head out of the caboose, etc.) that will appeal most to young readers. 

While it's again not quite my person cup of tea, I think it's safe to say that Steam Train, Dream Train will be a success. The authors and publisher have taken a formula that worked very well for a book about construction equipment and applied it to trains. If anything, trains are better suited to bedtime stories than construction equipment is. I expect this one to fly off the shelves, and to be a particular hit with four to six year old boys. 

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids)
Publication Date: April 16, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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