The Little Engine That Could

Common Sense Media says

Charming, encouraging picture book engages and inspires.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Though the book wasn't necessarily designed for this purpose, the pictures in Watty Piper's classic story The Little Engine That Could are so lucious and compelling, and so packed with recognizable objects, the book makes a wonderful tool for working with young kids on recognition of foods, colors, and objects. Kids also find it fun to count how many apples, oranges, lollipops, etc.

Positive messages

The Little Engine That Could may be the classic inspirational tale for young children. The Little Engine's sunny mantra, "I think I can, I think I can," says you can do it if you try.

Positive role models

As a childlike engine that succeeds by trying his best, the Little Engine sets a great example for kids with his positive attitude, generosity, and strong effort.

Violence & scariness

There are two very brief periods of suspense. Will the food and toys find another engine to pull them over the mountain? Will the Little Engine be able to pull the big train? The dolls cry because they might not make it. But it's not scary.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Watty Piper's classic picture book The Little Engine That Could has been inspiring and engaging young children since it was first published in 1930. Not only does the cheerful, hardworking Little Engine's positive attitude ("I think I can, I think I can") encourage children to try their best, but also the pictures in this classic edition make a memorable, enjoyable tool for teaching children about colors, objects, and numbers. For children new to the story, there's a bit of suspense over whether the train will make it over the mountain, but nothing in the least frightening, and kids familiar with the book will still enjoy that arc over and over. Note that there are other editions of this book, with different illustrations, but it's worth tracking down this classic version.

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What's the story?

This classic edition of THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD was first published in 1930, by \"Watty Piper,\" a pen name of Arnold Munk, who was a partner in the book's original publishing company, Platt & Munk. Versions of the story had previously appeared in magazines and anthologies, but his was the first version in book form. Little Engine begins with descriptions of a happy little train engine pulling a full load of cargo, on its way to children on the other side of the mountain. In the train is food -- including apples, oranges, bottles of milk, and more -- and toys for children to play with. When the happy engine breaks down, a toy clown asks other engines to pull the train over the mountain, with no success, until the cheerful Little Engine says, \"I think I can.\"

Is it any good?


The Little Engine That Could is still a must-read for young children. Not only is the engaging story as charming and encouraging as can be, the illustrations by George and Doris Hauman are delicious to pore over with a youngster who's learning to count, or identify objects and colors. There are other editions of this book, with different illustrations, but it's worth tracking down this classic version, which kids have loved and remembered for generations.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether Little Engine tried his best. Does it help when you try your best?

  • Look at the pictures in the book. Can you count how many apples? How many lollipops?

  • If the Little Engine was pulling this train to your house, what things would you want for yourself? Dolls? Oranges? Spinach?

Book details

Author:Watty Piper
Illustrator:George and Doris Hauman
Genre:Picture Book
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:January 1, 1930
Number of pages:32
Publisher's recommended age(s):3 - 5
Read aloud:3 - 5
Read alone:5 - 7
Available on:App, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook, Paperback

This review of The Little Engine That Could was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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