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Kids love trains. I’m on my second boy and third train lover so I sometimes feel like I have read every train book the library has 300 times, at least. Do you feel the same way? We asked our fans, friends, and combined our own favorites to bring you the Best Train Books for train lovers of all ages!
Best Train Books for All Ages
Best Train Board Books
Tough and sturdy these board books are perfect for your littlest train lover.
The Usbornetouchy-feely series of That’s not my… are my favorite. I never tire of reading them and could buy every single one. Kids love them not just for the touch and feel but for the colorful pictures of their favorite things. You can find one for whatever your child’s favorite thing is from princesses and ponies to trucks, tractors, and trains.
Just like the Usborne book above, this is a series. We have Trains, Trucks, and Animals. All of my kids have loved them because of their real pictures. I like the larger format board book that allows it to be a great lap read. There are also questions and guides on each page to help lead preschoolers through more significant learning like colors of trains.
1, 2, 3 to the Zoo by Eric Carle
It’s not a best-of-list without Eric Carle now is it? While this is more about counting than trains, trains play a prominent role. An empty freight train picks up all the animals and you count on each page, while a smaller version follows along on the bottom. Note for parents who don’t like improvising or making up stories this book has no words.
Trains Board Book by Byron Barton
Barton’s simple graphics introduce children to the vocabulary of trains, types, and what they do. The simple pictures will entertain toddlers. We have several including the construction one that has gone through several of the children.
Inside Freight Train by Donald Crews
This book is so loved in our house that after more than 5 years we had to retire it because “all of Mom’s tools couldn’t put it back together again!” This fun book is full of slide open pages that will show your little engineers what is in each of the different kinds of freight cars.
Freight Train Board Book by Donald Crews
Crews’ other board book starts the Freight Trains journey naming all the types of cars, perfect for color recognition/learning. It then travels through the book until it’s going, going gone! This is another one that has been passed down in our house for the last 10 years, a sure winner with any train-loving toddler.
Trains Go by Steven Light
A favorite of Holly’s family children will love this lively board book for all the different sounds that the different trains make.
Best Train Picture Books
The Potty Train by David Hochman and Ruth Kennison, Illustrated by Derek Anderson
Tracy’s son is currently enjoying this one for its subtle potty humor. Although I would take it if it would potty train my kid!
Trains: Steaming! Pulling! Huffing! by Patricia Hubbell
This colorful book is full of interesting pictures and lots of action words. Pictures are collages made from mixed-media illustrations that will remind you of times gone by. Children will love the wordplay and action as they move through the book. This is a series and we have also enjoyed Cars: Rushing! Honking! Zooming! and Airplanes: Soaring! Diving! Turning!
Two Little Trains by Margaret Wise Brown
Best known for Goodnight Moon Wise Brown was actually a prolific children’s book author and this is actually our family favorite or hers. Our copy of this book has been loved since our oldest was little. It’s the story of train travel across the county as viewed from a big sleek train on the left side of the book and an old steam train, which is a child’s toy train, on the right side of the book.
Thomas the Tank Engine Story Collection by the Rev. W. Awdry
No train list would be complete without this famous blue tank engine. There are hundreds of titles to choose from at just about every reading level. If you have not had the pleasure of reading the originals written by Rev. W. Awdry for his son I would pick them up today. The stories are a little longer but in my opinion more meaningful with fewer antics and troublesome behavior from the trains.
The Goodnight Train by June Sobel
The good night train is filled with coal and getting set to roll to dreamland! This train ride takes its passengers on a rhythmic journey that will lull them (and your little one) off to dreamland. There are lots of details to keep everyone finding surprises on the pages and the text follows the speed and movement of the train making its way through the familiar stages of a child’s bedtime.
Night Train by Caroline Stutson
This book drove my husband crazy because the perspective of the drawings is off, but my son and daughter loved it! A little boy takes an overnight train trip to see grandma. You get a look at cities and fields and how a train trip works from dining cars to sleeping cars. Non-art snobs and train lovers will enjoy this different take on a cross-country train trip.
A Train Goes Clickety-Clack by Jonathan London
Simple rhyming words and bright pictures keep little ones pointing and asking for more as a family sees all the different types of trains on their trip. Bonus points for the babywearing mom!
Steam Train, Dream Train By Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
This fun book is by the same author as Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, and if your toddler is anything like mine the only acceptable substitute to reading that one every night. Older kids will even like the play on words as the animal crew loads the train, such as monkeys using monkey bars. Lovers of the construction book will find their favorite trucks making cameos in this one too.
This Train by Paul Collicut
This is another gorgeous book with vivid paintings. Collicut uses the trains to teach concepts such as size. This train is long, this one is short, this one runs on two rails and this one on one. My older son still likes looking at this book because the endpapers feature models from all over the world that were the inspirations for the pictures in the book.
Best Train Books for Elementary Age Kids
Any of the DK books about trains are perfect for curious preschoolers or older kids. My toddler loves looking at these just for all the pictures. My oldest (10) will look at it with him, happily, because he can learn about trains. Another favorite is the one that shows a cut-away of the Steam Engines.
Train by Elisha Cooper
This gorgeous book is best for school-age kids and preschoolers who can sit through a long story. The book is a story of cross-country train travel and delightfully changes the types of trains as their paths cross on the journey. I loved the details in the gorgeous pictures and the visual for older kids on how goods are moved and how there are different types of trains being used today.
Trains by Lynn Curlee
Best for older school-age kids. Bright beautiful pictures will delight younger kids but it’s a long (wordy) historical account of a town built because of the railroad and the history of the railroad. Perfect for 4-6 graders who still love trains but maybe need a non-fiction book for a report.
Locomotive by Brian Floca
This Caldecott Medal winner is stunning, to say the least. We have loved every single book that Brain Floca has written. His illustrations are phenomenal and he has a great way of teaching kids in an engaging way that keeps them interested. You will usually find his books in the non-fiction section so keep that in mind if you are looking at the library.
This particular book tells the tale of the summer of 1869 and the trip across the brand new transcontinental railroad. While Amazon recommends it for ages preschool (4) and up I agree with the School Library Journal who says grades 3-5. While my toddler and preschooler love the pictures the story is too difficult and long for them to sit through.
Why not pack some of these books up and take them on a train ride? We’ve got some ideas:
- Kid-Friendly Stop on the Metra Union Pacific North Line
- Kid-friendly Stops on the Metra Milwaukee North Line
Did we miss your favorite book? Share them with us in the comments!
Find more book suggestions on our Bookshelf!
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