Imagination Library Book Activity for The Little Engine That Could

Dolly Parton’s Imagination LibraryBOOK TITLE: The Little Engine That Could
AUTHOR: Watty Piper

SUMMARY OF BOOK: This book is about a train that breaks down. It has to deliver toys to boys and girls on the other side of the mountain. A little blue engine happens by and decides to try and help the big red engine over the mountain by pulling it over. It doesn’t believe it can pull it initially but with determination it overcomes its obstacles as it slowly pulls the toys and animals to the other side. Download this Activity Sheet in PDF.


Ask questions and use what the child already knows to add to the discussion, assisting the child in understanding and enjoying the book.

  1. Start off by letting children hold and handle the book. Talk about how ridged the top is. The side and bottom is also ridged. One side is straight. Talk about the colors on the front of the book. See if the children can tell you any of the colors.
  2. Talk about the front and back of the book. Allow children the opportunity to tell what they see. Either build on what they know or introduce the concept of a train and a clown. Talk about trains – what they sound like, look like, where they might go, etc. Ask them to predict what they believe the book will be about.


First: What toy would you like to get? How do you think the children feel toys are coming? Point to all the animals on the page and have a few stuffed animals that are in the train. Let each child have a stuffed animal and chug along as you read the story. As you discuss feelings, let the children try to show the different emotions with their faces (happy, excited, etc.)

Next pages:

  1. Talk about why the train may have stopped. Ask why the toys were so thrilled to see the little blue engine.
  2. Ask the children if they believe the blue engine will be able to pull the toys over the mountain.
  3. What is happening? Let children predict what will happen next.

Last page: Discuss how the toys, children, and blue engine must feel after accomplishing such a big goal!


  1. Talk to the children about the little blue engine. Emphasize the blue engine’s positive attitude. Walk around the room playing like a train saying “Choo-choo! I think I can, I think I can!”
  2. If you have the space, get up and let the children put their hands on the child’s hips in front of them (you are the engine). Be a choo-choo train, chugging and puffing along the way. Be a train all over the yard. Take turns letting children be the caboose. Direct the children to do different things (ex. “Let’s chug to the left,” “Now let’s chug around in a circle,” etc.).
  3. Make a train from rectangles (the number of cars depends on the number of letters in your child’s name) and write one letter of their name on each car. Help the child glue the rectangles on another sheet of paper in a row in order so their name is spelled correctly. Encourage children to add wheels, some stacks, etc.

Compliments of: Rasmuson Foundation
Created by: Students at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and used by permission of the United Way of Greater Chattanooga.

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