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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Train book love: "By the Shores of Silver Lake"

My old copy of
By the Shores of Silver Lake
Now that we are back to a school schedule, the day trips will be at a minimum for awhile, but not the mental journeys. My kids and I have been reading through Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. I've always loved historical fiction, so I started the kids with some of the picture book adaptations of her stories. Once they were hooked, we jumped in to the "real" books and they keep asking to continue as we finish each one. I mention this here because we are currently beginning "By the Shores of Silver Lake. " I'm happy to report that my 7-year old boy has enjoyed reading these books about pioneer girls without complaint, and he has been rewarded by chapters in this volume describing the Ingalls family heading from Minnesota to Dakota Territory via their first train ride. This was in the days when trains were new and dangerous, at least to the young passengers, so the descriptions capture a palpable sense of adventure. The look of the stations and train cars, the clamor of the engines and cars connecting, the rumble of the ground as the trains approach and the feel of soot long after the ride ends, all come through in rich detail.

To be honest, I will never love trains as much as my eldest son, but from an educational perspective there are so many reasons to encourage his interest. As this book reminds me, loving railroads gives him -- and by default his siblings -- a chance to learn about history, industry, society and so much more. If a kid is going to have an obsession, railroading is a fine one to have.

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