Donald Crews’, Freight Train, completely embodies the ideal young children’s picture book. The book combines simplicity with wonder, boldness with soft edges, and tranquility with excitement. It was due to all of these characteristics and many others that this children’s book received the Caldecott Medal in 1979.
The book contains clear, bright illustrations and is centered solely on the travels of one single freight train. The text is short and sweet, containing only a few words on each page. The clear font and big sizing make the words easy to read, and the changing colors make them stand out against the background of the page. The story takes the reader along on the train’s journey, from country to city, day to night. It names different parts of the freight train, such as the “red caboose at the back,” “orange tank car next,” “yellow hopper car,” etc. Seeing as many children, especially young boys, love to play with toy trains, I know that this book would only fuel their interests and keep them engaged. The combination of limited text with fantastic pictures make this book a perfect first story for infants and preschoolers.
Donald Crews artwork is both simple and intricate all at the same time, just like his text. The colors are infectious and the range of textures used is very appealing. Some of the illustrations are clean and straight lined, while others show action and movement through blurred and smudged edges. I really think that this makes the reader feel as if they are moving along with the train and seeing what the train is seeing. I like that the different cars represent different colors, which allows the children to connect colors to the matching words.
As mentioned previously, I would highly recommend this book to any preschool teacher, new parent, or anyone else dealing with young children. I think that the book’s features are most appropriate for very young readers and will definitely spark an interest in books. The book is available in hardcover, paperback, and more recently, board book format. It would be a great addition to any young child’s book collection!