I believe I may have mentioned once or two thousand times that Mini is a big fan of trains. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to happen upon this wonderful book on my way back from BlogHer in July: a whole book filled with trains, train illustrations, and colorful train legends and folklore! The kid travel souvenir gods had shined upon me that day, I was sure of it!
Because even if Mini has been doing a lot of growing in recent months, and even if he has become increasingly fond of the move where I’m talking and he says, “Mah!” and then “Shhh!” with his finger pressed to his lips, whenever he feels I’m being too chatty–there’s still a little bit of the wet-behind-the-ears naif in him. At almost two and a half, Mini’s not too grown up to enjoy a full-color illustration of an old-fashioned steam locomotive, complete with front-attached cow catcher! Oh no!
And here’s looking at you, Lynn Curlee — finally, a writer who is not afraid to admit she shares Mini’s wide-eyed nostalgia for all things train! “There are few things more exciting than the sound of a train chugging through the countryside”?! That is a sentence that could only have been written by a remarkably literate toddler! For what adult could muster up this kind of childlike wonder about an outdated and slow form of mass transit?! None with whom I’m acquainted, that’s for sure! And none who are younger than, say, Larry King!
And teaching him about how a steam locomotive works?! Well, it’s never too early to get in the running for the Rhodes Scholarship, right?
But sometimes you get so charmed by the multiple pictures of couples in silhouette, each captured in a loving parting embrace by the side of a departing train, that it makes you forget.
It makes you forget what you usually know, viz. that not all people who deal with children–or write books for children–actually have children–or at least, that not all of them demonstrate a complete understanding of the child’s intellectual processes and motivations. Like the times when you’re at My Gym and you notice that all of the Big Wheels and other push toys have been tied to poles with bungee cords, rendering them immovable, and thus a huge source of frustration to the average toddler.
And that’s why, when you first happen upon one of these outrageous travesties of toddler justice, your brain is simply incapable of accepting it. This is why you will assume, at first, that there has been some kind of tragic mistake. “Are the Big Wheels tied up just temporarily? Like, you will let them ride around on them later or something?” you ask, hoping against common sense that nobody in their right mind would set out to mock a toddler with a non-moving moving toy. It is that same impulse that leads you to believe that these scribbles inside the train book were a result of a toddler’s imagination sent into overdrive by the wonders of mass transit via locomotive, and all of the magic that steam power works on the impressionable toddler brain.
But eventually, you get a closer look at things, and notice that the page opposite the scribbling is filled with falling bodies, set against a graphic background of flames and sundry crushed train parts.
And then you rip the page out of the book because–what the fuck? What kind of a sick fuck puts a page full of bodies falling out of the sky, set against flames and crashing trains in a children’s book?! What is WRONG with people?