The first book for consideration in this series of blogs is a book written by Gertrude Crampton and first published in 1945. It has sold over 8.5 million copies (2011), it is the all time third best selling children’s book in English and has never been out of print. It is a Little Golden Book titled Tootle.
I love Tootle because of the colourful pictures and the message in the story. I am sure many of you already know the story of Tootle but I will quickly recap some of it.
Tootle is a little locomotive who goes to a school for engines at Lower Trainswitch where he learns all about Whistle Blowing, Stopping for a Red Flag Waving. Puffing Loudly When Starting, Coming Around Curves Safely, Screeching When Stopping and Clicking and Clacking Over the Rails. There is a lot to learn and Tootle is very keen to learn it all and grow up to be a Flyer who goes very fast. Of all the things Tootle had to learn, the most important was Staying on the rails No Matter What and he needed to do this to get 100 A+.
One day Tootle was out practicing his staying on the rails when a beautiful black horse challenged him to a race. Tootle agreed as he loved to go fast but towards the end of the race it appeared the horse would win because Tootle had to take a long swooping curve. Tootle’s ego got the better of him and he did the unthinkable; he left the rails. The race ended in a tie but Tootle had tasted freedom and he couldn’t get how lovely it was out of his head . Every day after that, although he told himself he would work really hard, he ended up in the meadow where he played all day.
It didn’t take to long for the engineers to realise Tootle was going off the rails and so with the help of the Mayor Himself and the townspeople a plan was devised. Not a store in Lower Trainswitch was open the next day and not a person was at home. By the time the sun came up, every villager was hiding in the meadow along the tracks. And each of them had a red flag.
Now if there was one thing Tootle knew it was that a locomotive must always Stop for a Red Flag Waving. So in every direction that Tootle tried to go, someone popped up with a red flag and Tootle had to stop. Then Tootle spied just one green flag waving over on the tracks and so he went to it because it was no fun in a meadow full of red flags. Tootle ends up as a successful Two Miles a Minute Flyer and now he teaches the young locomotives.
Tootle is a wonderful book because it speaks of a community full of people who cared enough that when they saw someone going off the rails, in love, they all went out with red flags waving.