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Orchard September 2013

"One day the engineer wanted a bite to eat

He left the monkey sitting in the driver's seat

The monkey pulled the throttle, the locomotion jumped the gun

Doing 90 miles an hour down the main line run"

-- Jesse Fuller, "The Monkey and the Engineer (1961)

"As the commuter train waits, another train roars past on another track.  A larger train.  A bright blue Passenger Train hurrying between cities.  The train is late so...

...up in the cab of the engine, the engineer pulls back the throttle.  The Passenger Train powers forward.  It hurtles past barns and farmhouses.  The engine is so big it makes other big things look small. 

The engineer sits very still but his fingers are always moving. Pushing levers, turning dials.  He taps a blue button -- long, long, short, long -- and the horn blares out...

...across a valley of fields and steeples.  As the train approaches a rail crossing, it sounds like a storm.  As the train passes, it sounds like dropped pots and pans.  As the train leaves, it sounds like theda dum da dum of a beating heart.  Then silence"

I so love trains. 

Growing up on Long Island, I had many adolescent experiences riding the Long Island Railroad into Manhattan with friends, bound for a concert or other adventures.  Switching over to the subway trains at Penn Station.  Before that, as a kid, there was the little train set with metal tracks and an electrical transformer that would appear out of the attic for a couple of weeks during the winter holiday season.

Here in northern California, it is an incredibly pretty drive from my home in Sebastopol down Highway 101 to San Francisco.  But it will be so much nicer to have the option of hopping aboard a train in Santa Rosa some of the time instead of driving.  An environmentally-preferable option. We have a combination high-speed rail track and walking/biking path that is presently under construction.  By time my baby grandson Chayton is ready for preschool, we'll be able to board a brand-new train together and head off to see the world like the passengers and rail employees we find in Elisha Cooper's beautiful new book that celebrates train travel. 

I've been regularly singing "I've Been Working on the Railroad" to Chayton, so we'll be well-prepared.

In his distinctive watercolor and pencil illustrations, Elisha Cooper depicts a variety of trains -- both passenger and freight, and both existing and futuristic/imagined -- that are operating across various stretches of the U.S.  Beginning in New York City, and traveling through day and night, we cross the country from one coast to the other.  Along the way, we pass bucolic, old east coast, small-town stations; traverse stretches of green; ride through Midwest industrial cities; through amber waves of grain; up through the mountains and across high plains; and emerge into the part of the world that I call home.

A dozen or so terms from the text are explained in a Glossary & Notes section.

As we sing in "Down by the Station," "Choo choo, puff puff, off we go..."

All aboard!

 978-0-545-38495-7    40 pages   Ages  4-8


Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, Instructor, San Jose State University, California USA

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