Can I say it any more emphatically?  This is truly a classic and one that continues to be read to the young, lessons learned by all.  Don’t let the original publication date of 1930 fool you or scare you away as the book holds its story so well.

There have been many editions, even some before 1930.  Sunday school lessons, stories entitled “The Pony Engine,” “Thinking One Can,” “Story of the Engine That Thought It Could,” “The Royal Engine,” and more were published in magazines, newspapers, as a small book, even the first title in a series that were sold door-to-door.  Roy E. Plotnick (of the University of Illinois @ Chicago) did some extensive research on the history of this little book.  Rather than go into detail here, I will refer you to http://tigger.uic.edu/~plotnick/littleng.htm if you are interested in that history.

The little train, filled with toys, stuffed animals, dolls, and even food (candies and nutritional fruits, milk, and greens), has to get to the other side of the mountain.  It just doesn’t have the ability so some of the toys disembark along the tracks.  The clown begins asking other engines passing by if they can help.  There is a “Shiny New Engine,” a “Big Strong Engine,” and a “Rusty Old Engine” which all answered that they could not, would not because they were a passenger train or a freight train or just too tired.  These excuses led to a sadness amongst the toys until a little blue engine came along.  When asked for help, she told them that she had never been over the mountain plus she was little.  But she decided to try.  She hooked the cars of the train to her engine and began the journey up over the mountain with an attitude of “I think I can.  I think I can.”  And she did.

“The Little Engine That Could” continues to teach the reader and listener the value of hard work and optimistism.   This little engine keeps right on chugging!

Reading Level: 3 – 5 Years

Arnold Munk is the real name of the author.  “Watty Piper” was his pen name as an author of children’s books and as the editor (and owner) of many of the books that Platt & Munk published.  He was born in Hungary, and as a child, moved to the United States with his family, settling in Chicago, and later, New York.

The illustrator for his original version in 1930 was Lois Lenski.  In 1954, Platt & Munk published another version of The Little Engine That Could, with slightly revised language and new, more colorful illustrations done by George and Doris Hauman.  “It was the work of George and Doris Hauman that earned The Little Engine the title of being worthy to sit on the same shelf as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” **  Since then, the tale has been re-illustrated by Ruth Sanderson in 1976, and Loren Long in 2005.  The version I am reviewing is the one illustrated by the Haumans, republished by Penguin in 1976.  I recommend looking at the version done by Loren Long for his art is wonderful.  You can find him at http://www.lorenlong.com/Books 

Book Information

  • ISBN-13: 9780448405209
  • Publisher: Platt & Munk, Publishers, a division of Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1978
  • Edition description: Original Classic
  • Pages: 48
  • Product dimensions: 7.06 (w) x 11.06 (h) x 0.35 (d)

**  Bernice E. Cullinan, Diane Goetz Person. The Continuum Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature. Continuum International Publishing Group, Aug 1, 2003.  Pg. 634

I originally reviewed this classic book on 7-31-2014.


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