Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book #351: Time Train by Paul Fleischman, Illustrated by Claire Ewart

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Miss Pym’s class is going on a field trip to Dinosaur National Monument in Utah for spring vacation. At the train station in New York City Miss Pym buys 8 tickets from the ticket seller, who tells them if they really want to learn about dinosaurs, they should take the Rocky Mountain Unlimited at gate 44A. By the time the train passes through Pittsburgh the class knows they are in for an unusual field trip. Instead of skyscrapers and cars, the streets of the city are full of horse-drawn carts, men in top hats, and women in long dresses! As the train chugs west it also travels back in time. That evening they see mammoths on the snowy plains and in the morning the hot weather brings in bugs bigger than Miss Pym! The train drops the class off in Utah and soon they see their first dinosaur! After several wonderful days playing with the dinosaurs the Rocky Mountain Unlimited returns to take the frazzled Miss Pym and her class back to New York.

Fleischman’s dead pan delivery makes for a magical and humorous time adventure. The text briefly describes the scenes that the train passes or that the children encounter in their play with the dinosaurs, but it is the illustrations that deliver the punch line to each carefully crafted joke. Ewart’s painted illustrations are colorful and lush with lots of funny details. The mostly unnamed students represent a variety of skin and hair colors and all of them approach this unexpected journey with curiosity and enthusiasm. Poor Miss Pym never quite relaxes on the field trip and her distraught actions are deliciously funny.

Use this book for a storytime about dinosaurs for kindergarten or elementary school students. Try pairing it with Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs or Dinotrux. You’ll want to have non-fiction books about dinosaurs and other prehistoric flora and fauna for kids to browse and check out.

Pair this book with other stories about time travel, such as The Secret Box, Charlie and Kiwi: An Evolutionary Adventure or Dinosaur Dream. Ask kids to talk or write about a place they would want to travel to in a different time. Where and why?

Bring out a map of the U.S. and figure out a possible route for the Rocky Mountain Unlimited. Make a timeline that charts the journey through time as well as space. Using your timeline guesstimate what the children might see out their window in other states or major cities. If you live close to a train station, pick up some travel brochures and train schedules. Have kids create a brochure advertising the wonders of riding on the Rocky Mountain Unlimited, as well as a train schedule to go along with it. You can also have kids create a menu for the dining car.


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