Bookworm Sez: Help children settle down for bed with ‘Steam Train, Dream Train’

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Bookworm Sez: Help children settle down for bed with ‘Steam Train, Dream Train’

“Steam Train, Dream Train” by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

c.2013, Chronicle Books $16.99 / $18.99 Canada 40 pages

Every day, from morning til night, you chug-chug-chug along.

Yep, you’re a busy kid with lots of ideas. You help around the house, ride your bike, play with friends, read books, dig in the dirt, throw a ball, lay in the grass. There’s always something down the track to do – until you run out of steam.

That’s when it’s time for a story, and for bed. It’s time to take a trip on the “Steam Train, Dream Train” by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld.

It’s dark, almost bedtime, and if you’re quiet and listen, you can hear a train’s clickety-clack coming down the track. A whistle blows, the smokestack puffs, the bell on top rings out, and the whole train stops.

The train’s driver signals the crew to start. Everyone has a job to do, and they have to do it quick. Everything must be loaded before it gets too late, so the crew slides the boxcar doors open and they get to work.

Balls and hoops are tucked away. Bouncy things, building blocks, all kinds of toys and bikes are put inside the boxcar. Things are poured in, thrown in, gushed in, and carried in carefully. The crew pounces and bounces and flounces everything to exactly where it’s supposed to be. There’s plenty of room for all the supplies!

Of course, a crew has to eat, so food gets loaded, too - up the ramp and piled high. The reefer car is freezing cold and perfect for ice cream. As soon as that treat is loaded full, it’s time for a midnight snack.

There’s sand on the train, and six race cars with rainbow colors. Dinosaurs ride on the big flat cars, and you can imagine what kind of snacks they need to be happy. A crane brings their dinner and lifts it straight up.

There are other things on the flatcars, too: flat beds, perfect for a crew that’s tired from loading supplies all night. The beds are soft, just like yours. They have pillows, just like yours. The crew has had a busy day, just like you’ve had.

And just like you, they’re ready for another day tomorrow…

Is bedtime a big battle at your house? Does your wee one fight that slippery slope to sleep? Then perhaps “Steam Train, Dream Train” is a book you need to have on your child’s shelf.

Starting with a cute rhyme and lots of surprising activity, authors Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld gently, eventually, bring their story to a slow and drowsy end that’s perfect for the close of any day. The story itself is calming, and the illustrations – done in twilight colors – help set a bedtime tone. Those drawings, in fact, will also appeal to any kid who prefers to browse a sleepytime story in full daylight.

If your child spends each evening trying to derail plans for bedtime, then help his little engine wind down with this book. Offer to read “Steam Train, Dream Train” tonight and he’ll be all aboard.

“Souvenir Nation” by William L. Bird, Jr.

c.2013, Princeton Architectural Press $24.95 / $29.95 Canada 176 pages

You must have rocks in your head.

Surely, if not there, you’ll find them in the family room, the bathroom, and your child’s bedroom. Yes, your kids bring home rocks – along with driftwood, broken shells, a butterfly wing, and a cupful of pens with hotel names on the side, all keepsakes that somehow became important remembrances of summer fun.

To the average person, none of those things are worth a dime but to your family, they’re priceless. And in the new book “Souvenir Nation” by William L. Bird, Jr., you’ll see what odd treasures (real and imagined) reside in the Smithsonian Museum .

It seems horrifying today but the fact is that after George Washington died, there were no formal plans to preserve his estate. Visitors to the “crumbling” site “pried shards and fragments from Washington’s home” until 1852, when a distant nephew hired an entrepreneur to sell bits of it, including wood from the area around Washington’s tomb. Indeed, splinters of one of Washington’s coffins (he had several) were also eventually parceled out.

Over the years, Americans collected bits and pieces of things they considered important and bequeathed them to various museums and government entities tasked with accepting those items. In 1835, funds from the estate of British natural philosopher James Smithson became available to establish a museum here in the States. Founded in 1850, it would be named the Smithsonian Institution.

The history of the Smithsonian itself is long, and includes argument, ego and transferral of artifacts from one branch to another. In this book, author William Bird, Jr. devotes his attention to objects from the collection of the Division of Political History, National Museum of American history, Smithsonian Institution.

Some items are odd: a piece of ivy from Mount Vernon; a napkin used by Napoleon; and locks of hair from presidents and “Persons of Distinction.” Others almost missed being saved: the table and chairs used at Appomattox, and a dress cuff stained with Abraham Lincoln’s blood. And then there are things that delight: pieces of Franklin Roosevelt’s birthday cake; a suffrage pin; an Eisenhower and Nixon campaign bucket, and Teddy Roosevelt’s can opener.

Start “Souvenir Nation” and you may be tempted to put it down. The beginning of this book is filled with a long history about a history museum; it’s dry and somewhat hard to follow because it’s not very linear.

Stick around, though.

Author William L. Bird, Jr. gives readers this information in order to understand the significance of the tidbits and ephemera in the second half of his book. Without that prior knowledge, many of the items almost seem like junk. With it, each item (complete with pictures!) is more intriguing than the last.

Not quite as captivated by the first part of this book as I was with the last, I still found it very browse-able and good for a nice vacation-on-the-sofa kind of day. If that’s what you need, or if you’re a historian or pop-culture fanatic, “Souvenir Nation” will be a nice addition to your book collection.

(The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.)