Cover image for Prairie train
Prairie train
Chall, Marsha Wilson.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2003]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 23 x 29 cm
A young girl experiences the thrill of her first train ride when she takes the Great Northern from the country to visit her grandmother in the city.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.6 0.5 72744.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



All Aboooard! During the first half of the twentieth century, the legendary steam engines of the Great Northern Railroad ruled the American northwest from Seattle, Washington, to St. Paul, Minnesota. Riding the Empire Builder was the safest, fastest, and most comfortable way to travel, as it chugged over wide rivers, across the Great Plains, and through snowbound mountain passes with such regularity you could set your watch by it. But for a small girl travelling by herself for the first time, a trip from her country home to visit Grandma in the city of St. Paul is anything but routine. With words rich in the rhythm of the rails and paintings both beautiful and authentic, PRAIRIE TRAIN welcomes you aboard the Great Northern for a memorable journey across the country and into the past.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

K-Gr. 3. A young girl relays the thrill of her first train ride as she takes the Great Northern across the prairie to visit her grandmother in St. Paul. Graceful phrasing (Night chases close behind the train and hitches a rail ) and word placement on the pages generate the rhythm of the journey, which is accentuated by train sounds that appear in italics. The colorful acrylic illustrations create both atmosphere and emotions as the girl delights in choosing her favorites in the dining car, sings along with a boy playing the harmonica when a snowdrift stalls the train, and worries whether her grandmother will be waiting for her. One aspect is puzzling: the text reads the woman facing me knits but when the child tumbles off the seat, the seat opposite her appears empty; it's only in the next spread that a woman is shown with her knitting. That asidd, this is a poignant glimpse of a time gone by (possibly the 1920s or 1930s), which shares a special experience. --Julie Cummins Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

For a girl riding the rails across the 1930s American prairie, the journey is suffused with sounds: the train whistle's "woooOOOO!," the "Shooh... Shooh..." that indicate "the pants and huffs and puffs" of the engine's steam, the "clickety click click click" of a passenger's knitting needles "keeping time with the Great Northern line." Chall (Happy Birthday, America!) harnesses these melodies, building a locomotive rhythm into her prose ("heading far away from home-/ shined shoes,/ white gloves,/ coin purse,/ two dollars,/ cranberry coat,/ wool beret-/ Grandma's girl,/ city queen). As the girl narrator travels east, young readers with a passion for the past will thrill to ride alongside her, experiencing the train's elegant dining car and velvet seats "as soft as caterpillars," and gazing out at the prairie, "stitched together in brown and yellow patches," flying by. Thompson's (Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters) saturated, photorealistic paintings make the period details vivid enough for readers to feel they could step into the narrator's world. In many pictures Thompson depicts the girl in mid-action (tumbling off a seat when the train stops; singing with hands spread), which enhances the immediacy of the artwork. This handsome volume lyrically evokes a bygone world. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-A girl travels aboard the Great Northern Railroad across the winter prairie to visit her grandmother in St. Paul. Rhythmic verses depict her experiences as she watches the scenery, eats in the dining car, and becomes nervous when the train gets stuck in a snowdrift. The language is descriptive, e.g., "The prairie is stitched together/in brown and yellow patches/like Grandma's quilt spread over the hills" or "The Great Northern is as quiet/as a frozen buffalo." The soft, realistic illustrations, done predominantly in earth tones, provide views of the child as well as the passing scenery, and clearly evoke the early-20th-century setting. These richly detailed pictures are fully integrated into the text, transforming an ordinary train ride into an exciting experience. A good choice for reading aloud.-Margaret R. Tassia, Millersville University, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.