Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reading "Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo" by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk

We were at Borders bookstore last weekend and stumbled upon this beautiful, hardcover storybook about a little boy playing with his toy train in his bedroom.

Beautiful illustrations in amazing colours - the images look so rich, so vivid and so real - I couldn't stop looking at the them and my little boy's eyes were glued to the page.

The illustrations are so rich in colour and the font size so big, "Chugga Chugga Choo Choo" would also make a great storybook for reading aloud during storytime at a library or at a kindergarten.

If the artist, Daniel Kirk, produces paintings for sale, I'm sure people are lining up to buy them. He's so good with perspective, colour mixing and textures. You can "feel" the warmth of the morning sun, the "furriness" of the toy bunny and teddy bear, the action of loading the freight cars, the "realism" of a little boy's messy room with a lot of "works in progress".

The storyline? Great!

It begins with the train engineer waking up in the morning, driving the train with many of his little toy friends on board or around...
  • Lots of action and adventure - "round the mountains...through the valleys...into tunnels..." 
  • Lots of attention to details i.e. "whistle blowing...", "wheels a-turning...", 
  • Good use of onomatopeia - "chugga-chugga choo-choo", "whooooooo-whooooooo" - my son got really excited when I read that part and he'll also trace the words when I read them (Comment: should it be read as "woo-woo" or "hoo-hoo"?)
  • Essential vocabulary for Thomas the Tank Engine train fans who know their stuff i.e. "freight", "caboose", "boxcars", "roundhouse".

With only 2 sentences per page, you can read the story and turn the pages quickly enough to attract and sustain the short attention spans of hyperactive 2 - 6 year old boys.

The words chosen match the pace of the story e.g. "wheels a-turning" when the engine starts to move, "Hurry! Hurry!", self-explanatory and then "Boxcars empty. One by one. Sun is setting. Job well done." when the train arrives at its destination. I naturally slow down my reading speed too when we get there.

Lastly, I also like the fact that a little black boy is the protagonist in this book, which is helpful because most of the train books we have feature little Caucasian children. 

My one little gripe about the book would be its ending, which I thought was on the page that ends with "safe and sound". I thought I could already say good night but when I had to read another page, I had to replay the sleepy and draggy voice at "whoooo-whoooo" LOL. 

"Chugga Chugga Choo Choo" is a great book to read aloud to a child and also for a child to read it on his own. Definitely a keeper.
You can get the book from Borders for RM19.90. Happy reading!

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