78. “The Little Engine That Could” edited by Watty Piper


To balance off the harsh lesson taught in the book featured yesterday, let’s have a moment of optimism with the embodiment of positive thinking, the surprisingly capable Little Engine. Although this classic is on the daily reading agenda in our house, I have been in two minds about bringing it up.  America was raised on “The Little Engine That Could”. Why to bring up a story that has been read through and through by every American family for over a century now? Well, perhaps not only American parents are going to read this post. And secondly, perhaps some American parents need a little reminder that the good old books haven’t gone bad.

“The Little Engine That Could” is our staple good-night story. Since my son knows it word by word, we start with a short summary. My little reader looks at the first picture and tells me all about the engines: the red one pulling a train of toys and food for good little boys and girls over the mountain, is the one that gets broken down. And the shiny new engine is a proud passenger engine, unwilling to help the toys to get over the hill. The big black engine is the freight engine and behind her, there is the old, rusty engine, too tired to pull the train. And then my son’s eyes light up and he points to the good-hearted and strong-willed little blue engine, which successfully brings the train over the mountain and to the children. Where there is a will, there is a way, as the saying goes. Isn’t that a message a children’s story should convey?

I hope my son will always choose a little blue engine as a role model. I hope I will always remember to do the same. It is so easy to get caught up in our own routine and priorities that helping others, which should be our basic instinct, becomes burdensome.  We are too busy, too tired, we need to go to work, watch our favorite show, sleep in a bit longer… There is no way we can find time and energy should you need help. Perhaps, it is time to change the attitude, though. We can be the engine with a power to make someone smile.

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