Yesterday I did an interview with my friend and fellow blogger Lynn E. O’Connacht, and today I’m delighted to review her newest book: Tales of the Little Engine, a collection of closely-related short stories. The description was so adorable I knew I’d have to get a copy—and was so happy to find that the stories were charming and made me think.
The first story in the collection is “The Little Engine That Couldn’t,” about Jan, a little engine who tries and tries to achieve its dream…and reveals an important and rarely-heard lesson in the process. I’d really love to talk about it, but I don’t want to give too much away…although the title is a definite hint! Lynn included a personal essay at the end of the book discussing the inspiration and intention of the story, and I found that as fascinating as the short story itself. (There’s more discussion on this in Lynn’s interview too.)
The other stories focus on the Bravest Little Engine, star of a series of stories Jan tells to children when they come for rides, and which Jan told to the narrator—who now tells us. It’s all very meta and layered! The Bravest Little Engine confronts the evil Nethertrain and makes friends with a dog named Mister Whiskers, among other adventures.
As you might guess already, this is a collection written for kids, with simple writing and a lot of sweetness–but as I always say of the best kids books, it has cross-age appeal. There’s depth to the stories, especially the first one, and they’re just fun for adults too. The voice is charming and stays light even when dealing with spooky monsters and difficult challenges, but doesn’t shy away from sadness either.
I love the narrative device of the storyteller speaking to the reader and relaying the story. That’s something I always enjoy and it’s particularly well-done here. In fact, the style and voice reminded me very much of J. M. Barrie—and regular readers will know that I don’t say that lightly! But the stories had much the same feel, that I was sitting down to be told a story, by a charming storyteller who wants to share something magical.
If I have any complaint, it’s only that I wish there was more! The last story of the collection has a very open ending. It does feel like an ending (in a “and then they continued down the road to new adventures…” kind of a way) but also like there could be so much more! Lynn tells me there may be new stories eventually…and in the meantime, what we already have is a lovely read.
Author’s Site: http://www.leoconnacht.com/wp/
Buy it here: Tales of the Little Engine