Black and white photograph of an old steam engine in 1902 with the words I think I can, labeled books about trains

Topics: Culture | Fun | Kids

(Updated March 1, 2022 – We’ve updated the list with some new finds!)

This month kicks off with National Read Across America Day on March 2nd! 

The National Education Association (NEA) launched the Read Across America initiative in 1997 to encourage children to read more books and get kids excited about reading. The first Read Across America Day was celebrated on March 2, 1998, and the event has been held annually ever since on the school day closest to March 2nd. 

But, did you know that March 2nd is also the birthday of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss? It’s no coincidence that these two events coincide. Dr. Seuss is known for authoring and illustrating over 60 children’s books, including many of the most popular children’s books of all time.

Dr. Seuss’s appreciation for art, literature, learning, and pioneering has inspired us to create a list of books highlighting one of our favorite things: trains!

Two Little Trains by Margaret Wise Brown (for very little children, 2-6): The classic picture book from Margaret Wise Brown about two trains and their cross-country journey from east to west, with a bold new look from Geisel Award–winning artist Greg Pizzoli. A streamlined train and a little old train journey through hills and over mountains, crossing rivers and plains, in this treasured story from Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon. Reimagined with bold and vibrant art by Geisel Award–winning artist Greg Pizzoli, this updated edition is perfect for fans of things that go.

Locomotive (Caldecott Medal book) by Brian Floca (slightly older kids, 4 – 10): It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding America’s brand-new transcontinental railroad. These pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean. Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country!

Alphabet Trains by Samantha R. Vamos (ages 3 – 6): All aboard for a train ride through the alphabet! Whether chug-chug-chugging up a mountainside in an Incline train or zipping at super speed in a Bullet train, trains will get you where you need to be—A to Z! There is a train—some familiar and some unusual—for every letter of the alphabet. Trains are used all over the world for carrying people and cargo from place to place. With a bouncy rhyming text, and clever illustrations full of visual cues, young readers will love learning all about trains.

The Train Rolls On by Jodi Adams (ages 3-8): A determined train races the clock to deliver a lively bunch of animals to the zoo for its grand opening. Will the animals arrive in time for their big debut? The train encounters several obstacles along the way, but…The Train Rolls On! This book is a timeless tale of perseverance and working together as a team to overcome obstacles. With its rhyming text, memorable refrain, and stunning illustrations, this exciting train and zoo animal adventure is sure to resonate with children and adults alike!

Overground Railroad by Lesa Cline-Ransome (ages 4 – 8): A window into a child’s experience of the Great Migration from the award-winning creators of Before She Was Harriet and Finding Langston. Climbing aboard the New York bound Silver Meteor train, Ruth Ellen embarks upon a journey toward a new life up North– one she can’t begin to imagine. Stop by stop, the perceptive young narrator tells her journey in poems, leaving behind the cotton fields and distant Blue Ridge mountains. Each leg of the trip brings new revelations as scenes out the window of folks working in fields give way to the Delaware River, the curtain that separates the colored car is removed, and glimpses of the freedom and opportunity the family hopes to find come into view. As they travel, Ruth Ellen reads from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, reflecting on how her journey mirrors her own– until finally the train arrives at its last stop, New York’s Penn Station, and the family heads out into a night filled with bright lights, glimmering stars, and new possibility. James Ransome’s mixed-media illustrations are full of bold color and texture, bringing Ruth Ellen’s journey to life, from sprawling cotton fields to cramped train cars, the wary glances of other passengers and the dark forest through which Frederick Douglass traveled towards freedom. Overground Railroad is, as Lesa notes, a story of people who were running from and running to at the same time, and it’s a story that will stay with readers long after the final pages.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The Polar Express is a classic children’s book that explores one boy’s mysterious journey to the North Pole on Christmas Eve! Explore the wonders of the holidays and trains while reading about his magical adventures.

The Goodnight Train by June Sobel

Stop counting sheep and start counting trains! The Goodnight Train is the perfect bedtime read for sleepy children. Hold onto your pillowcase as you travel by train through the countryside, over hills, and through tunnels until your little one is fast asleep.

The Potty Train by David Hochman

The Potty Train is the perfect book for potty training and will have you and your little one screaming chugga chugga poo poo on the way to the potty! 

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

The Little Engine That Could tells the story of a train that breaks down while trying to deliver toys to the town’s children. Cheer along the little blue engine as it tries to get the toys over the hill.

Trains: A Complete History by Philip Steele

If you are interested in learning the history of the trains that shaped our nation, this two-in-one book is perfect for train enthusiasts of all ages! It includes press-out model train pieces for you to build and collect.

Diesel the Naughty Engine by Reverend W. Awdry

Diesel the naughty engine is constantly getting into trouble! Find out if he continues to play tricks on other engines or if he comes to Thomas’s rescue!

Chugga Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis 

There is no better time to tell a train story that rhymes! Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo tells the story of a father and son’s adventures while transporting cargo and rhyming along the way!

Curious George Takes a Train by Margaret & HA Rey

Get on board with Curious George as he learns all about how trains work!

Thomas the Train Book Box Set by Dr. Seuss Brand (stories by Rev. W. Awdry) 

This Thomas & Friends book set features 4 mini Thomas the Train stories: Go Train, Go!; Stop, Train, Stop!; A Crack in the Track!; and Blue Train, Green Train. This set also includes a Thomas & friends lunch box – Perfect for any Thomas the Train lovers!

Wind-up Train Book by Gill Doherty

If your child thrives with interactive learning, this illustrated train book is a perfect fit! Wind-up Train Book features 3 individual stories with embedded tracks and a wind-up train toy for your child to use while following along with the adventures!

My Big Train Book by Roger Priddy 

Steam engines to passenger trains and freight trains to high-speed trains, this book has it all! My Big Train Book is the perfect read for train lovers big and small!