For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s currently winter, which is my favorite season. Yes, I may have been born in the Caribbean, but I feel more at ease when it is colder outside. I can wear cozy clothes, avoid the sun, and not contend with the oppressive humidity of the southern United States.
Luckily, I have a few more months before the heat creeps back in. Winter is also a great time to share winter themed global picture books like The Winter Train. This whimsical story of friendship, solidarity, and animal migration is an ideal read-aloud for young children, at story time or bedtime.
Winter is coming to the Northern Forest, and the animals are busily preparing for their annual trip to the Southern Forest: Wild Cat is looking for their toothbrush, Deer needs another suitcase, and Badger reminds Rabbit to turn out the light before they leave. The animals gather at the foot of the oldest tree in the forest, where they will board the train that will take them to warmer climes. Soon they all board, and the atmosphere is jovial, with the different animals-the wolf, the goat, the bat, the bear, and others- playing cards and singing to pass the time.
But oh no! Genet (an animal I learned of because of this book!) realizes they have forgotten Squirrel! Winter is much too cold for her. They have to turn back. Snow is falling fast in the Northern Forest, and Genet bounds out to find Squirrel. She finds her friend in her den, curled up into a ball, teeth chattering from the cold. Squirrel had stayed up late the night before counting stars, and overslept.
There is no time to waste; Genet and Squirrel rush back to the train, where the animals rejoice at the return of their friends. However, the snow is now covering the tracks, blocking the train. What will the animals of the forest do? They decide to work together to clear the snow from the tracks, large animals like Bear removing clumps of snow with his claws while the smaller animals use their paws and wings.
The train is free! The animals did it! They jump aboard and settle in for the journey south, curled up in satisfied sleep from a job well done.
The illustrations by Ester Garcia Cortes are soft and friendly, and play with animal size and perspective, which makes for a visually engaging book. The translation by Jon Brokenbrow is highly readable and accessible. Like all of the books published by Spanish publisher Cuento de luz, the printed version of The Winter Train uses stone paper, which does not use bleach or trees in its production. It makes for sturdy pages that can withstand frequent turning. Author Susanna Isern‘s depiction of animals migrating via train is a lovely, imaginative spin on what could have been a run-of-the-mill animal story, and the solidarity and cooperation of the forest animals is a wonderful example for young children. In fact, watching out for those smaller than you and working together to solve problems is something we should all replicate.
Written by Susanna Isern
Illustrated by Ester Garcia Cortes
Translated from Spanish by Jon Brokenbrow
Cuento de Luz, 2014.
Klem-Marí Cajigas has been with Nashville Public Library since 2012, after more than a decade of academic training in Religious Studies and Ministry. As the Family Literacy Coordinator for Bringing Books to Life!, Nashville Public Library’s award-winning early literacy outreach program, she delivers family literacy workshops to a diverse range of local communities. Born in Puerto Rico, Klem-Marí is bilingual, bicultural, and proudly Boricua.