Saturday, June 18, 2011

Of Trains and Planes and Things that Go

Pretty much everyone who knows my kiddo knows his obsession with all things transportation-related. It started with Thomas the Tank Engine, which has some oddly mesmerizing hold over the toddler male demographic. Then we got into Pixar's Cars -- great timing for that one because now with the sequel coming out, we can't even buy cereal without Lightning McQueen and crew staring out at us from every shelf. And along the way we have accumulated other vehicles of various origination and type. Most days my living room looks like we are about to hold a public auto auction.

Big surprise then that when we go to the library, most of our selections feature trains, trucks, boats and the like. This past week one of Sprout's favorite selections is Byron Barton's Trains. It's a classic that I remember from my bookselling days as being steadily popular, along with Barton's other titles like Trucks, Planes, and Boats. Barton's illustration style features chunky yet remarkably detailed translations of the theme, loads of primary colors, and pleasantly appealing humans, similar to Todd Parr's, who don't get in the way of the action. In short, all the things toddler boys are drawn to.

What I hadn't remembered, until I spent the past week reading this title twice a night, every night, is that Barton does a great job of incorporating diversity into a book that isn't ostensibly multicultural. Sure, the trains take center stage (especially that passenger train -- that sucker just keeps popping up!). But look closer and you'll note that Barton's people are all colors of the rainbow. And it's not just a token brown face at the edge of the crowd, but families, business travelers, and railway staff of multiple hues. Our favorite part of the book is the spread with the passengers asleep, one face in each window. Sprout delights in pointing out the little brown boy in the back ("me!" he chirps), and the reddish-haired white lady just in front of him ("Mama!"). This is a refreshing change for us from the mostly whitewashed world of Thomas and Friends. Kudos to you, Byron Barton!

If you can't find these in your library (and they are older -- Trains is copyrighted 1986), look for the board book versions online or at your local indie bookstore. A great addition to any little man's collection!

1 comment:

Robin said...

I love Barton's books too! It is really cool that Barton incorporates diversity so seamlessly in his illustrations. But mostly, I love that chunky style. I didn't realize he had one on trains. We will definitely have to check that out!