This blog has been brewing in my head for a couple of years. A blog about children’s picture books for which I am extremely passionate. Some have jokingly called me a hoarder, but I call it love. My collection is extensive, yet never complete. But I digress. I’m dedicating this blog to the knowledge, admiration, and deep love of children’s picture books.
So where to start has been the question for a while. Life has thrown a lot of curve balls and finding the time to devote to it has been difficult as it always seems for things we love. But here I sit, ready to wax poetic about authors and illustrators and what book to read when. And the inspiration for the beginning came in my mailbox a few months ago.
Now, it is important to note here that I had a baby recently. My passion for children’s books runs deep and began long before my daughter was even a spark of a thought. I can remember writing and illustrating my own in grade school and I still have nearly every book I’ve ever owned from childhood until now.
Well, my daughter is here and I am now a stay-at-home mom and am strategically attempting to learn motherhood, keep house, and somewhere in there dedicate time to posting about all things picture book related. So back to the mailbox inspiration. We live in Tennessee and thanks to Dolly Parton, any child who registers with the Imagination Library receives a children’s book in the mail every month until they turn five. Amazing, yes? Enter my daughter’s first book.
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, illustrated by George & Doris Hauman. I must be honest and say that this book has never been one of my favorites. I loved it as a child, but as an adult, I find the intense repetitiveness a struggle to want to read. Ironically, the repeated phrases are most likely a part of what makes it so interesting for children and yet that aspect can make an adult groan when the book is requested.
This story seems to have quite a history and multiple occurrences and rewrites. After some rabbit trail research, I found it interesting to note that an early account of this story appeared in the New York Tribune in April of 1906. Rev. Charles S. Wing used it in a sermon. The first version by Watty Piper notes on the title page that it is retold from The Pony Engine by Mabel C. Bragg. However, no one seems to know where the original story came from or its author (see detailed research here).
This version of the book was written in 1954 by Watty Piper, a pen name for Arnold Munk, and illustrated by the Haumans. The original by Mr. Piper was illustrated by Lois Lenski in 1930. Ms. Lenski’s illustrations look to be marvelous and I hope to someday see a copy of it in person. But for the purpose of this post, we’ll deal with the currently popular version.
If you aren’t familiar with the story, which I would find quite surprising, there is a little train full of toys, games, food, and treats for the good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain.
This poor engine breaks down and the toys are in despair until a shiny engine appears. Their request for his help is met with scoffing and insults and they despair again until a big strong engine comes by. But this engine is also too important for the likes of them and huffs away.
More despair until a very old and tired engine comes by, and you guessed it, he refuses as well and here we see a negative version of the coming famous phrase, “I can not. I can not. I can not.” So the train is sad and the little girl dolls are crying until a little blue engine pulls up and merrily agrees despite the fact that she isn’t very big. And here we have the oh so famous phrase, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….” Charming. You go, little blue engine.
So despite my not being entirely enthused by this as my daughter’s first mailbox book, I found it to be a bit inspiring for myself as I embark on this new blogging adventure. I passionately love picture books and cannot wait to share my love, knowledge, research and more with anyone who will give a listen. So here I will type and unashamedly chant with the little blue engine, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”