Prairie Train

Prairie Train

by Marsha Wilson Chall, John Thompson
     
 

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ALL ABOOOARD!

During the first half of the twentieth century, the legendary steam engines of the Great Northern Railroad ruled the American northwest from Seattle, Washington, to St. Paul, Minnesota. Riding the Empire Builder was the safest, fastest, and most comfortable way to travel, as it chugged over wide rivers, across the Great Plains, and

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Overview

ALL ABOOOARD!

During the first half of the twentieth century, the legendary steam engines of the Great Northern Railroad ruled the American northwest from Seattle, Washington, to St. Paul, Minnesota. Riding the Empire Builder was the safest, fastest, and most comfortable way to travel, as it chugged over wide rivers, across the Great Plains, and through snowbound mountain passes with such regularity you could set your watch by it.

But for a small girl travelling by herself for the first time, a trip from her country home to visit Grandma in the city of St. Paul is anything but routine. With words rich in the rhythm of the rails and paintings both beautiful and authentic, Prairie Train welcomes you aboard the Great Northern for a memorable journey across the country and into the past.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For a girl riding the rails across the 1930s American prairie, the journey is suffused with sounds: the train whistle's "woooOOOO!," the "Shooh... Shooh..." that indicate "the pants and huffs and puffs" of the engine's steam, the "clickety click click click" of a passenger's knitting needles "keeping time with the Great Northern line." Chall (Happy Birthday, America!) harnesses these melodies, building a locomotive rhythm into her prose ("heading far away from home-/ shined shoes,/ white gloves,/ coin purse,/ two dollars,/ cranberry coat,/ wool beret-/ Grandma's girl,/ city queen). As the girl narrator travels east, young readers with a passion for the past will thrill to ride alongside her, experiencing the train's elegant dining car and velvet seats "as soft as caterpillars," and gazing out at the prairie, "stitched together in brown and yellow patches," flying by. Thompson's (Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters) saturated, photorealistic paintings make the period details vivid enough for readers to feel they could step into the narrator's world. In many pictures Thompson depicts the girl in mid-action (tumbling off a seat when the train stops; singing with hands spread), which enhances the immediacy of the artwork. This handsome volume lyrically evokes a bygone world. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The train is coming, chugging across the frozen prairie. A young farm girl is traveling by herself to visit grandma in the big city of St. Paul, Minnesota. Set in the early part of the 20th century, when Model T's were still common and train dining cars used real silver, the story itself is ageless. In her first taste of independence, the unnamed heroine must traverse miles of prairie on her own. At first it seems easy. She wears warm clothes and thinks about grandma waiting for her. She reads the advertisements on barns. She eats what she wants in the diner and pilfers a few sugar cubes. Then the train hits a snowdrift. It is stuck. When will it get started again? Will Grandma still be waiting? What can she do while she waits? The small bit of tension, along with the rhythmic description of the train sounds—clackety clack clack clack—keep the reader moving even while the girl is stuck. Thompson's realistic painted images show a blond child who is both happy and nervous about her trip and all it entails. 2003, HarperCollins, Ages 4 to 8.
— Amy S. Hansen
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-A girl travels aboard the Great Northern Railroad across the winter prairie to visit her grandmother in St. Paul. Rhythmic verses depict her experiences as she watches the scenery, eats in the dining car, and becomes nervous when the train gets stuck in a snowdrift. The language is descriptive, e.g., "The prairie is stitched together/in brown and yellow patches/like Grandma's quilt spread over the hills" or "The Great Northern is as quiet/as a frozen buffalo." The soft, realistic illustrations, done predominantly in earth tones, provide views of the child as well as the passing scenery, and clearly evoke the early-20th-century setting. These richly detailed pictures are fully integrated into the text, transforming an ordinary train ride into an exciting experience. A good choice for reading aloud.-Margaret R. Tassia, Millersville University, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
As the Great Northern chugs its way to St. Paul, past fields "stitched together / in brown and yellow patches, / like Grandma's quilt spread over the hills," a lone child in her Sunday Best gazes happily out the windows, takes a meal in the dining car (surreptitiously dropping sugar cubes into her wallet as mementos), makes friends with those seated around her when the train is temporarily halted by a snowdrift, then steps off at last, and into her grandmother's arms. Thompson places the ride in the 1920s or '30s, depicting passengers and elegant interiors with photorealistic sharpness, then backing off to show the big train steaming its way through towns and over rolling prairie. Despite occasional anxious moments, the generally buoyant tone of this individual odyssey will reassure prospective young travelers, and trainiacs will pore over the period details. (Picture book. 7-9)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780688134341
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/19/2003
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
40
Product dimensions:
11.30(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

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