Crews, D. (1978). Freight Train. New York: Greenwillow Books.
Holy crud. This book is from the 1970s. When I originally read it, I assumed it had been published within the last few years. So, when I saw the striking colors of the train and it's smoke, I just assumed it was accomplished with recent technology. No biggie. Then I noticed the Caldecott Honor medal on the front of the book. Which triggered a whole, "why haven't I seen this book before" line of questioning. Answer: The book was originally published and awarded before I was born. Sensical. But this also caused me to be a tad bit more impressed by the illustrations.
In a simply fashion, Freight Train, in poetic language, labels the different cars of a train that passes by, starting with the back (and much loved caboose) and moving forward. After that, the picturebook shares action verbs and locations where the train goes. The illustrations lend themselves to having students name the different colors and shapes. Young readers will probably be entertained by the blurred colors of the train cars in motion and of the varied color of the smoke.
I must admit, I learned a bit about the different names of the train cars. What I would normally call "that one part, the bucket segment, the car that holds stuff that looks like coal" is also known as the "hopper car." This however is not to be confused with the lower more box-shaped version that also seems to carry coal, called the gondola car. Not to forget the tender car--which is located where I grew up thinking the coal cart went. Are the other cars not holding coal? Am I just confused? What is the difference among these cars besides shape and size? I don't know. Please explain.
Also worth noting, there is an dual English/Spanish language version of the book as well. (I put the English first, because it seems the book privileges that language)
Activities to Do with the Book:
This could be a wonderful book to share with young students who are interested in trains or transportation in general. Sometimes a book like this can be especially effective with reluctant readers.
After sharing this book, a parent or teacher could guide a child in putting a model train together, making sure to name all of the different cars.
Also, if a teacher wanted to focus in on the potential pollution caused by the illustrated train, a teacher could discuss the various types of fuel or power used to make different types of transportation work.
"A train runs across this track."
"Red caboose at the back"
"Orange tank car next"
"Purple box car"
Going through tunnels
Going by cities