The Little Engine That Could: 90th Anniversary Edition – Watty Piper, reimagined by Dan Santat


  The Little Engine That Could: 90th Anniversary Edition – Watty Piper, reimagined by Dan Santat, Platt & Munk, an imprint of Grosset & Dunlop, 9780593094396, c1930, 2020 

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre: Picture Book

 What did you like about the book? What’s not to like about this amazing classic story! In celebration of the 90th anniversary of this story’s creation, a new book is being released with a few added features. To begin with, Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat has provided his magic touch with the illustrations. Although I love the illustrations of previous editions (particularly those created by George and Doris Hauman in the 1950’s),, these new illustrations will be sure to please a new audience. The drawings are a little more colorful and a little more modern, yet keep true to the essence of the story. Another added bonus to this edition is a forward provided by Dolly Parton and a note from Dan Santat as well–both sharing what this story has meant to them in their personal lives. Dolly Parton started a free book program in her hometown and chose The Little Engine That Could as the book. She further explains that this was a story told to her when she was younger, encouraging her to dream big (which she did!). Dan Santat also says this book has been an inspiration to him when he faces challenges in his daily life.

As I was reviewing the reimagined illustrations for this new edition, I pulled up an older edition (one that I am familiar with from my own childhood) and compared the two books page by page. The illustrations match up, but with a more contemporary feel. For example, there is a two-page spread that features the foods that the train is carrying and this includes milk, candies, fruit, and lettuce. This is a small detail, but the lollipops and milk containers resembled more of what children today would see. This was also true for the outfits on the dolls. Older versions featured clothing more like what was seen in “Sally, Dick, and Jane” books (remember those!) whereas in this version, they were a little more modern.

Anything you did not like about the book. Nothing

To whom would you recommend this book? This is one of those books that has a wide audience. I think children as young as two years old can appreciate a story about persistence, to keep trying, and to keep reaching for something you want. On the other hand, it would also make a perfect graduation gift or even a little nostalgic gift for an adult that might be tackling a daunting project–a little reminder of a special story from childhood about the powerful message of persistence and believing in yourself.

Who should buy this book? Because the illustrations are a little more contemporary, I think public and elementary school libraries, daycare centers, and preschools should invest in this new edition.

Where would you shelve it? Picture Books

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, a nice way to refresh an old classic.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Kristin Guay, former youth services librarian.

Date of review: April 29, 2020

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