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Two Little Trains.
Two Little Trains.
"Call me shallow," one toddler says to another in one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons, "but I like Goodnight Moon."

Me too. And every time I stumble across another of Margaret Wise Brown's books, I find I like that one as well.

C1, C2, and I went to the library today, and wound up browsing the 'B' shelf of the picturebook section, looking --- on C2's orders --- for Arthur books that featured his little sister DW. We didn't find any of those, but we did find this, a new edition of Brown's 1949 Two Little Trains.

Two Little Trains begins like this:
Two little trains went down the track,
Two little trains went West.
Puff, Puff, Puff and Chug, Chug, Chug,
Two little trains to the West.

One little train was a streamlined train,
Puff, Puff, Puff to the West.
One little train was a little old train,
Chug, Chug, Chug to the West.

Look down, look down
That long steel track,
That long steel track
To the West.

In the original, it turns out, the streamlined train was captained by a boy, and the chug-chug train by a girl. The illustrations were in pastel shades of blue and pink to match. So it's understandable that a few years back HarperCollins commissioned Leo and Diane Dillon to put together a new version.

The new version stands beautifully on its own. In it, the streamlined train is a real train and the chug-chug train is a toy, and the two head West on parallel journeys --- one across the continent, the other through the home of the child who owns it. The paintings are crisp and inventive and gorgeous.

Over at Amazon, a reader review of the book includes the following passage:
Part of the problem, I think, is the actual word choice which is a little odd in places. For example, in describing the effects of weather, Wise says that the rain makes the trains darker, and the snow makes them furry. Sort of abstract for a 3 year old. Still this is a minor point when compared to the reference to a 'black man singing in the West.' Surely a reference to a variety of music that is beyond most young children's comprehension.
Um, okay. For the record, here are the pages in question:
The rain came down on the two little trains,
On the two little trains going West,
And it made them darker, and wet and shiny,
As they went on their way to the West.

The snow came down
And covered the ground,
And the two little trains going West.
And they got white and furry,
And still in a hurry
They puffed and chugged to the West.

The moon shone down on a gleaming track,
And the two little trains going West;
And they hurried along and heard the song
Of a black man singing in the West.

Look down, look down that long steel track
Where you and I must go;
That long steel track and strong cross bars,
Before we travel home.

"I love it," says Casey.

Me too.

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Read 8 comments or Comment
thedarkages From: thedarkages Date: November 19th, 2006 01:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I may have been an unusually misogynistic watcher of Arthur, but I always viewed D.W. as little more than an intemperate ruiner of Arthur's plans -- a living requirement that he be constrained to patience and forbearance and suchlike virtues. This constraint is as unsustainable as Tom Sawyer's at the hands of the Widow Daniels. I hope that someday Arthur will marry Francine, and put his exigent sister behind him.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 19th, 2006 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)
C2 doesn't watch the Arthur show much, and the only Arthur book she has --- I think --- is a DW-centric one. (DW's Library Card, Google tells me.)

So yeah. She's in for a rude awakening, once she figures out what's really what.
iayork From: iayork Date: November 19th, 2006 11:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was thinking the same thing, when I read about C2/DW (incidentally, C2/DW sounds like a potent explosive you'd use in mining or something). I eventually decided that DW is portrayed through Arthur's tiny, bespectacled eyes, and probably isn't really as Cthulhuish as she comes across in the show.
x_h00ine From: x_h00ine Date: November 19th, 2006 06:07 am (UTC) (Link)
So that conversation that we had over the summer about why parents don't want to expose kids to . . . you know . . . music? I think all ya'll were exactly the wrong people to talk to if I wanted to be enlightened on this. Because clearly there's an entire race of parents who don't want their kids exposed to . . . you know . . . ideas.

This is not to be construed as a complaint on my part.
willendorf5761 From: willendorf5761 Date: November 20th, 2006 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I must have this book. And I must give it to some short people I know. It's beautiful.

That Amazon reviewer apparently thinks kids are as stupid as s/he is. Sigh.
chi_editrix From: chi_editrix Date: November 20th, 2006 06:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Next up:

There are two...
Two trains running.
They're never goin' my way.
One runs at midnight...
Well, well, the other one runs...
The other one runs...
At the break of day.

Just feeling silly.
brooklynite From: brooklynite Date: November 20th, 2006 06:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Surely a reference to a variety of music that is beyond my comprehension.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 23rd, 2006 01:25 am (UTC) (Link)
We love "The Big Red Barn". Silas still asks for it at least once a week at bedtime. He's somehow weaseled me up to three books a night, so it's a welcome shorty.
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