Cover image for I dream of trains
I dream of trains
Johnson, Angela, 1961-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, [2003]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 25 x 29 cm
The son of a sharecropper dreams of leaving Mississippi on a train with the legendary engineer Casey Jones.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.6 0.5 72439.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC. BK. Juvenile Non-Fiction Picture Books
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



Papa says
it's the sound of leaving
that speaks to my soul...
The poignant words of two-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Angela Johnson and striking images from fine artist Loren Long join forces in this heartbreaking yet uplifting picture book about a boy, his love for trains, and his adulation of one legendary engineer.
It's the story of a hero lost and a hero discovered, of a dream crushed then reawakened, but mostly it is a story of the force that sustains the human spirit -- hope.

Author Notes

Angela Johnson was born on June 18, 1961 in Tuskegee, Alabama. She attended Kent State University and worked with Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) as a child development worker. She has written numerous children's books including Tell Me a Story, Mama, Shoes like Miss Alice, Looking for Red, A Cool Moonlight and Lily Brown's Paintings. She won the Coretta Scott King Author's Award three times for Toning the Sweep in 1994, for Heaven in 1999, and for The First Part Last in 2004, which also won the Michael L. Printz Award. In 2003, she was named a MacArthur fellow.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

PreS-Gr. 2. To escape his backbreaking work in the Mississippi cotton fields, a young, nineteenth-century African American boy dreams of trains. His hero is Casey Jones, who, with his black engineer Sims Web, sounds a soul-speaking whistle as he drives his engines past the boy's fields, dreaming me away. When Jones is killed in a wreck, loving Papa fills the boy with confidence that he'll still be able to explore the big, wide world, even without Casey. Children may struggle with the sense of some of Johnson's spare poetic lines: We are where we were and who we are, for example. But even if they can't grasp the full meaning, they will easily connect with the boy's deep yearning to escape and the quiet, atmospheric beauty of the language. Long's powerful acrylic paintings give an immediate sense of the boy's world: the sorrow of the workers in the hot fields; the thrill of the mighty, streaking trains; and the joy of imagined adventures. An interesting author's note adds more history about Casey Jones and the Great Migration. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

MacArthur Award winner Johnson (Heaven; Toning the Sweep) pens a reverie as piercing and poignant as the long cry of a train whistle against debut artist Long's breathtaking backdrops. As the African-American boy narrator toils in the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta, he hears a train speed past with the legendary engineer Casey Jones at the controls. Transported, he imagines sitting beside his hero in the cab of the 382 train "as the engine carries us past the delta and across the plains./ Over the mountains, past the desert and to the ocean-far away from here." Johnson's words, melodic and introspective, evoke the boy's longing for a better life ("Short days, cold days,/ turn back into long, warm planting days,/ / I still stare at the tracks and wait for Casey and his/ engine to come flying past the fields/ and dream me away"). Landscapes of purple mountains, stretches of aqua seas, rivers and rolling farmland are all connected by the tracks Casey travels. Long plays with perspective, using aerial views as the boy soars above his life in his daydreams (he crosses the Mississippi on a bridge of railroad ties, the shadow of his imagined hero beside him) and intimate close-ups as the boy returns to the reality of his life. Casey's massive, almost ghostly train becomes a powerful symbol; the train wreck that kills the famous conductor on April 30, 1900, screeches with drama. "Does that mean it's over?" the devastated boy asks his father. Johnson reassures young readers, through the father's reply, that dreams can still take wing. When the boy imagines boarding a train to leave his home, years hence, he says: "I will... remember as I roll away/ what Papa said about Casey/ and his soul-speaking whistles/ and my place in the big wide world." This theme of hope born of aching loss, and the ability of dreams to uplift and transform, speaks to every child who has ever had a hero. Ages 5-7. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-5-This powerfully illustrated picture book looks at legendary engineer Casey Jones through the eyes of a fictional black child who toils in a cotton field near the railroad tracks. In low, reverential tones, the text speaks both of the folk hero's mystique and the narrator's eagerness to experience Casey's big world. The man's status as a pioneering symbol of harmonious race relations appears within the story and in an eloquent epilogue suitable for older readers. Johnson's treatment of Casey's tragic, heroic death is particularly respectful and moving. Long's moody acrylic paintings, mainly in subdued tones, are a sterling accompaniment to the book's provocative prose.-Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.