About the Holiday
There’s something about trains with their click-clack rhythm and plaintive whistle that endears this mode of transportation to adults and kids. Today’s holiday honors all the mystery and romance of train travel while also remembering the history of the railroad and its importance to the development of the United States. The holiday was once sponsored by Amtrak, but train lovers across the country are keeping it on track. To celebrate, visit a train or transportation museum, take a short trip on your local commuter rail, or even plan a vacation trip by train.
Trains Don’t Sleep
Written by Andria Rosenbaum | Illustrated by Deirdre Gill
In the darkened forest cut by train tracks, the train approaches. Its headlight shines and its wheels “rumbling, grumbling, screech and squeal.” Without stopping the train continues “puffing, chuffing, never yawning. / Climbing hills as day is dawning.” It never sleeps but hurries on to each station on its route, picking up passengers from small towns and big cities and letting them ride to their destination.
But there are other trains on the rails that stay up all night too. Trains that “tow / Freight and flat cars in a row.” Chugging through forests and deep canyons, freight trains pull tenders, reefers, logging cars, hoppers, boxcars, and auto racks through tunnels and over bridges and “sky-high” trestles, never once being “afraid of heights.”
Through all kinds of weather, “in rain or snow, / trains will trudge and go, Go, GO!” When cars and trucks are stuck in jams, trains zip past. “Trains don’t sleep—they need to lead. / Roaring, rushing, gaining speed.” Trains don’t stop at traffic lights, but make cars wait as they go by. The circus train is always welcome with its cars filled with tents and animals and performers.
As afternoon softens to dusk, the train’s light begins to shine. “Trekking toward the setting sun, / Trains are always on the run.” But as the moon rises and night settles in, “the wheels will whisper / Shush, shush, shush.” The station glows with cozy light as travelers come and go, ready to ride or go home to bed. Then it’s time to leave the station behind because “Trains don’t sleep—they roll away, / Racing toward a brand new day.”
An illustrated look at different kinds of trains and train cars follows the text.
Andria Rosenbaum’s lovely story is part tribute, part lullaby as it takes readers on a lyrical journey cross country on passenger and freight trains. Her refrain “trains don’t sleep,” focusing on the dependability of trains as they chug along day and night over all terrain and in all weather, can also be read as a homage to a parent or caregiver’s love which, likewise, “never sleeps.” Rosenbaum’s sparkling rhymes beautifully convey the dichotomy of a train’s movement that seems to thunder through the daylight hours while slipping tranquilly through the night.
Deirdre Gill’s gorgeous illustrations depict locomotives with tender affection and all the excitement train travel offers. Gill’s use of various perspectives—from a train’s approach from afar to its accepting passengers at the station to an aerial view as it snakes along winding tracks—provides all the mystery, majesty, and pleasure that this favorite mode of transportation provides. Throughout, Gill’s color palette and choices of scene, architecture, automobiles, and even clothing fuse the past and present to create a fully realized look at our love of trains.
Delightful from beginning to end, Trains Don’t Sleep is a heartfelt and heartening story for bedtime or story time, and would be a favorite of train lovers and any child with a bit of wanderlust in their soul.
Ages 4 – 7
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0544380745
Discover more about Andria Rosenbaum and her books on her website
To learn more about Deirdre Gill, her books and her art, visit her website.
National Train Day Activity
Riding the Rails Dot to Dot
Taking a trip by train long distance can be fun—especially if you travel overnight in a sleeper car! Instead of counting sheep, count and follow the numbers in this printable Riding the Rails Dot to Dot.
Picture Book Review