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Donald Crews has effectively captured our enchantment with trains. By four or five years of age, children will begin recognizing the color word strategically placed above the corresponding car. This recognition of familiar terms is crucial to supporting beginning readers. Older, reluctant readers will find it reassuring to see familiar color words as they read.
Crews won the 1979 Caldecott Honor award for his expressionistic art in Freight Train. His style draws readers quickly into the book by eliminating unnecessary details. For example, as the train rushes past cities, a simple, two-toned skyline is in view. Majestic mountains are depicted by an effective but vague use of shades of violet. Even though the train's stature in our culture has diminished, generations of children have spent hours playing with toy train sets, and the memory of a train ride lasts a lifetime. Perhaps this explains children's continued fascination with the visual appeal, sound, and movement of trains, as well as kids' enthusiasm for this book.