Brooklynite (brooklynite) wrote,

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.
Tags: kids' books, parenting
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