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Train Tracks

All Aboard Starts with A

Train Tracks

Train Tracks

A Quarterly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks

“All Aboard!” Starts with A


The enormous library at the elementary school in Lexington, South Carolina was packed from side-to-side and front-to-back with several hundred students.  They were all sitting “criss-cross applesauce” with looks of eager anticipation.  Along both sides of the room were rows of teachers keeping watch over this congregation of chattering youngsters.  In short order, the school librarian stepped in front of the crowd, brought everyone to order, and introduced me as the visiting children’s author for the forthcoming assembly as well as for a day packed with classroom lessons, writing demonstrations, a special lunch, autographing sessions, and lots of stories.
I shared a slide show about my life, the books I’d written, the challenges of being a children’s author, and why reading is an important part of everyone’s education.  Then it was time for questions from the audience.  I was bombarded with: “How long does it take to write a book?”, “If you’ve written so many books, how come you’re not rich?”, “Is it true that your wife is an enchanted princess?”, and, of course, “How old are you?”  Finally, I called on one girl in the fourth grade section.  She stood up tentatively and asked, “What is the one thing you try and include in all your books?”  It was a good question…no, it was a great question…and I thought about it for a while.  I responded by telling her that the one thing I try to weave into all my books is passion.  A passion for the subject, a passion for storytelling, a passion for potential readers, and a passion for learning.  Good writing, I told her, is all about passion.  If I’m not passionate about what I’m writing, then readers won’t be passionate about reading it.
And so it was that the Northern Central Railway of York (NCR) recently invited me to write a children’s book specifically about their railroad, trains in
general, the history and science of trains, and how trains offer youngsters so many engaging learning opportunities.  It was decided that an alphabet book would be the best way to celebrate NCR while offering youngsters a distinctive vision about this important mode of transportation.  I began to write and quickly discovered that my own passion for trains could be passion for readers as well.  My fingers danced across the computer keyboard and my mind raced in a thousand directions.
Whistle starts with W;
The sound heard far and wide.
It makes a mighty noise
As we start out on our ride.
For each letter, I also added some background information, a little history, a bit of science, an amazing fact, or a brief anecdote.  In addition, I included two questions for each profiled letter – open-ended questions that adults (parents and teachers) could share with kids to help them comprehend and appreciate what was shared on the page (“Why do you think train whistles are so loud?”  “What do you like most about the sound of a train whistle?”).
After several months, I turned the completed manuscript over to the artist – Phyllis Disher Fredericks (Full disclosure: I have been married to the artist for nearly 50 years) – who was able to bring her unique talents to each of the 26 letters with dynamic illustrations and colorful perspectives.  It has been said that a compelling children’s book is a marriage of both text and illustrations.  This book embraces that philosophy with rich views of the two locomotives, the distinctive coach cars, the quaint towns of New Freedom and Glen Rock, the historic station at Hanover Junction, the train conductors and staff, the picturesque countryside, and, of course, the enthusiastic passengers who support and travel this York County treasure.
We hope you and your children enjoy “All Aboard!” Starts with A.  It’s an enchanting ride through an equally enchanting landscape.  There’s a profusion of learning, a multitude of adventures, and an abundance of discoveries along the way.  There’s also lots of passion about a very magical railway!
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Anthony D. Fredericks (www.anthonydfredericks.com) is Professor Emeritus of Education at York College of PA and the Education Consultant for NCR.  In addition, he is an award-winning and best-selling children’s author of more than 50 children’s books including A is for Anaconda: A Rainforest Alphabet  (https://amzn.to/370nTkd), Tall Tall Tree (https://amzn.to/3i8Gi0U ), and Mountain Night, Mountain Day (https://amzn.to/3i5I0Aj).