If you have aspiring train engineers at your house, you’ll love this curated list of our favorite train books for kids…from our train-loving family to yours!
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As a mom of three young boys, I’ve spent a lot of hours over the past eight years playing with and reading about TRAINS.
All of my boys have gone through a serious train phase (my youngest is still in the thick of it!). Trains are right up there with dinosaurs and construction trucks for my kids biggest obsession.
Apparently we’re not the only train-loving family around, because there are TONS of picture books written about trains. Goodnight trains. Dinosaur trains. Rainbow freight trains…the list goes on and on.
Out of the dozens (maybe even hundreds???) of train books we’ve read over the years, the ones listed below are our absolute favorites. So, if you have a train lover in your house, be sure to check out these train books for kids!
The Best Train Books for Kids
Note: I’ve grouped the books by age to help you choose the ones that are best for whatever phase you’re currently in. That’s not to say that young kids can’t enjoy the longer books, or that you should stop reading simple books to older kids (let them read what they like!!!). After all, all of these books have been enjoyed by all of my kids, regardless of age. But, I know that as a parent sometimes it’s nice to know what to expect from a book before you put it on hold at the library.
Perfect train books for toddlers
The recommended “toddler” books typically have less text and simpler storylines that readers with short attention spans may enjoy more.
This Caldecott Honor book brings to life the simple experience of watching a freight train roll by your window. Toddlers will love identifying the color and type of each car as you flip through the pages, and the simple, calming text will lull them to sleep.
Steam Train, Dream Train Colors
The illustrations steal the show in this simple board book. Combined with fun rhyming text about giggle-worthy scenarios, like pink hippos blowing bubbles in a boxcar, this book checks all the boxes of a perfect bedtime story.
My boys love all the “Amazing Machines” books by Tony Mitton, and this one is no exception. Their favorite page is the picture dictionary at the back where you can learn about various train terminology and the parts of a train.
If you think all trains just say “Choo choo”…think again. This board book teaches kids about the many sounds that different types of trains make. (P.S. – If you like this one, he has a whole series of vehicle-themed board books.)
Two Little Trains
You probably know Goodnight Moon, but have you read this equally charming bedtime story by the same author? It tells the parallel stories of two trains…one real train…one toy train. The simple text is beautiful and calming, and I love the clever illustrations that highlight the different journeys of the “two little trains”.
Train books for preschoolers and older kids
Books in the “preschooler and older kids” category will have more text on each page and may have more complex plots.
How to Train a Train
Anytime I see a book illustrated by John Rocco, I immediately pick it up. He is a master of creating detailed, imaginative scenes that just make you want to linger on each page. In this book, his fabulous illustrations bring to life Eaton’s “guidebook” on everything kids need to know about how to catch and care for a “pet” train.
The Little Engine that Could
It’s a classic story that you probably know, but if you haven’t read this version illustrated by Loren Long, you’re missing out. The story stays true to Watty Piper’s original text (and rightly so), but Long gives kids even more to enjoy with his whimsical visual storytelling.
The Littlest Train
Any child who has a train set will love this book about a toy train that accidentally gets bumped off the train table, and heads off to explore the world beyond the playroom. It’s my toddler’s favorite of ALL the books on the list (possibly because the big train shares his name).
This Caldecott winner is covered in shiny stickers for good reason. The illustrations are gorgeous and the story has a lilting, poetic feel that makes you feel as if you’re riding on the train rather than just reading about it. It is text heavy, so toddlers may not sit through the whole story in one sitting, but older kids will love it!
Curious George Takes a Train
We’re big fans of everyone’s favorite mischievous monkey. In this story, George is excited to go on a train trip with the man in the yellow hat, but (as usual) he gets himself into trouble when he tries to “help” the station master. Still, he manages to save the day in the end.
The Polar Express
It’s a Christmas classic, a Caldecott Medal winner, and it’s by one of the most respected children’s book illustrators of all time. All I can say is if you don’t already own it, add it to your Christmas list this year. And while you’re at it, get this one, too.
Steam, Smoke, & Steel: Back in Time with Trains
For kids who want more than just a cute story, this book is fabulous for teaching about the history of trains. It starts with a boy who wants to drive trains, just like his dad…and then continues back through history of several ancestors, highlighting how trains have evolved over time. Fascinating and informative.
The Secret Subway
This non-fiction book tells the fascinating (and true) story of New York’s first subway train, invented by Alfred Ely Beach’s. And while the story stands on its own, what I really love about this book is the unique artwork, which is a cross-over between illustration and stop-motion animation.
DK Big Book of Trains
This book is really text heavy, so you probably won’t read all of it, but it’s the kind of book I’ll leave out for my kids to discover. They love flipping through the pages, poring over all the photographs of trains. Then, we’ll sit down together and explore the pages together, picking up interesting facts as we browse.
How Trains Work
This interactive book is serious eye-candy for kids. Each page is packed with detailed illustrations, fun facts, and flaps to lift as you peek into the world of trains: past, present, and future.
Have you read any of the books on this list? Which is your favorite? And if I didn’t include one you love, drop the title in the comments below!
Want more book ideas? Try these other favorite book recommendations for kids: