Review: Tales of the Little Engine

cover-JanTitle: Tales of the Little Engine
Author: Lynn E. O’Connacht
Series: – –
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Format: Short story collection
Available: Now


Jan would like nothing more than to carry people across the mountains like the big trains do. When the steam train gets the chance to do just that, will it manage? And will it find happiness?

Together with its canine friend Mister Whiskers, the bravest little engine finds itself right in the middle of several magical mysteries. The narrow pass between its hometown of Vawick and the city of Dunnsbridge is haunted by the Nethertrain and its minions, but the bravest little engine isn’t afraid. When the Nethertrain learns of the little engine’s intrusion, it is furious. Can the bravest little engine and Mister Whiskers find a way to stop the Nethertrain once and for all?

Accompanied by two essays on the influences and ideas behind the stories, “Tales of the Little Engine” collects some of the adventures of two very different little steam engines. Join Jan as it learns that, sometimes, dreams come true slightly differently from how we think they should or tag along with the bravest little engine as it travels around Vawick and Dunnsbridge.

Source: Bought it
Disclaimer: Lynn is a good friend of mine, but I have tried to make my review as impartial as possible.

When I first read Lynn E. O’Connacht’s collection of stories, Feather by Feather and Other Stories, I was captivated by one particular short story about a little steam engine, The Little Engine That Couldn’t. It was short and sweet and unusual, in that it’s a tale about encouraging someone to do their best – and how that doesn’t always turn out too well for all involved, especially if the encouragers aren’t listening to what the encouragee is saying.

So I was delighted when this collection came out. It contains the original story of Jan’s attempt to cross the mountains in the middle of a snow storm, as well as an adorable epilogue about learning to live within ones limits and be comfortable with living dreams, even if they’re not always as grand as one might imagine. I love little Jan. It’s sweet and big hearted and so wants to be as important as the big engines. What O’Connacht does so brilliantly here is that she shows that Jan can be every bit as important and special as the big engines, without actually having to be a big engine. Its dreams might not work out the way it first imagined, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be happy.

As part of this dream, Jan becomes known for telling a series of stories to the children that it carries around. All of these stories are about the brave little engine, and there are six little tales here told by a narrator as she heard them told by Jan. (It’s not as complicated as I made that sound, I promise.) In all they’re cute and fun, with a lovely storyteller feel as they deal with unusual problems, the sinister Nethertrain, befriending the loyal Mister Whiskers and finding a way to be a hero whether one is stuck on tracks or not. Each story is different, but they all link together nicely with adventures and friendship and even a triumph or two.

I really enjoyed this short collection and it’s not just for lovers of steam engines. Though aimed at younger children, it almost begs to be read aloud and shared as it skims lightly through the adventures in a light-hearted way. The Nethertrain has the potential to be pretty scary, but O’Connacht handles that with a sweet narrative aside that helps bring out the bravery in all of us.

Included at the end are a couple of essays about what the original story means to the author and the things she’s learned from it along the way. It reinforces the message that not all encouragement is necessarily good, but that dreams are wonderful things even if we don’t always get to live them as we planned. It’s a personal touch to an adorable collection and invites readers to think about such things.

In all this is a quirky and cute collection aimed at young children, but with plenty for adults to also read-along with and enjoy. If you’re looking for something a little different, know a child who loves trains, or are just in need of a few good stories, then you should certainly give this a try. Jan is worth it.

Tales of the Little Engine is Out Now!
Visit Lynn E. O’Connacht for more details.


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