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Encyclopedia > The Little Engine that Could

The Little Engine that Could, also known as The Pony Engine, is a moralistic children's story that appeared in the United States of America. The book is used to teach children the value of optimism. Some critics would contend that the book is a metaphor for the American dream. A moral is a one sentence remark made at the end of many childrens stories that expresses the intended meaning, or the moral message, of the tale. ... 9 year old girl For other uses, see Child (disambiguation). ... This glass is half full. ... In language, a metaphor (from the Greek: metapherin rhetorical trope) is defined as a direct comparison between two or more seemingly unrelated subjects. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...

The gist of the tale is that a long train must be pulled over a high mountain. Various larger engines, treated anthropomorphically, are asked to pull the train; for various reasons they refuse. The request is made of a small engine; the other engines mock the engine for trying. But by chugging on with its motto I-think-I-can, the engine succeeds in pulling the train over the mountain. Anthropomorphism, also referred to as personification or prosopopeia, is the attribution of human characteristics to inanimate objects, animals, forces of nature, and others. ...

The best known incarnation of the story The Little Engine That Could is attributed to "The Deecer," a pseudonym used by publishing house Platt & Munk. With illustrations by the esteemed Lois Lenski, this retelling of the tale The Pony Engine appeared in 1930; the first edition attributes Mabel C. Bragg as the originating author. However, Mabel C. Bragg, a school teacher in Boston, Massachusetts, never claimed to have originated the story. Indeed, The Pony Engine, which first appeared in the Kindergarten Review in 1910, was written by Mary C. Jacobs (1877-1970). In 1954, Platt & Munk published a now familiar version of The Little Engine That Could (pictured at right), with slightly revised language and new, more colorful illustrations by George and Doris Hauman. Lois Lenski (1893-1974) was a popular and prolific writer of childrens and young adult fiction. ... 1930 (MCMXXX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link is to a full 1930 calendar). ... Nickname: City on the Hill, Beantown, The Hub (of the Universe) (The State House, according to Oliver Wendell Holmes, is the hub of the Solar System), Athens of America, The Cradle of Revolution, Puritan City, Americas Walking City Location in Massachusetts, USA Counties Suffolk County Mayor Thomas M. Menino...

But a much briefer, prior version of the tale appeared under the title Thinking One Can in 1906, in Wellsprings for Young People, a Sunday school publication. This version reappeared in a 1910 publication by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Its text reads: 1906 (MCMVI) was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... Sunday school, Indians and whites. ... 1910 (MCMX) was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Sunday of the 13-day slower Julian calendar. ... The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is a sororal association dedicated to historic preservation, education, and patriotic endeavor. ...

A little railroad engine was employed about a station yard for such work as it was built for, pulling a few cars on and off the switches. One morning it was waiting for the next call when a long train of freight-cars asked a large engine in the roundhouse to take it over the hill "I can't; that is too much a pull for me," said the great engine built for hard work. Then the train asked another engine, and another, only to hear excuses and be refused. At last in desperation the train asked the little switch engine to draw it up the grade and down on the other side. "I think I can," puffed the little locomotive, and put itself in front of the great heavy train. As it went on the little engine kept bravely puffing faster and faster, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can."
Then as it near the top of the grade, that had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly, but still kept saying, "I--think--I--can, I--think--I--can." It reached the top by dint of brave effort and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself, "I thought I could, I thought I could."
To think of hard things and say, "I can't" is sure to mean "Nothing done." To refuse to be daunted and insist on saying, "I think I can," is to make sure of being able to say triumphantly by and by, "I thought I could, I thought I could."

In the very earliest versions of the story, the 1906 Thinking One Can and the 1910 The Pony Engine, all the engines are neuter. In the Watty Piper retellings, the Little Engine That Could is female, the bigger engines are male.

Animation of an engine that may pull a long train over a high mountain.

Image File history File links Walschaerts_motion. ...


  • The book was turned into an animated version on video from Universal Studios in 1991.
  • An early edition of this story appeared in the six-volume Bookhouse Books, which were copyrighted in the UK in 1920 and sold in the U.S. via door-to-door salespersons. Although this version contained no author attribution, it was edited by Olive B. Miller and published in Chicago. The Bookhouse version began, "Once there was a Train-of-Cars, and she was flying merrily across the country with a load of Christmas toys for the children who lived way over on the other side of the mountain."
  • This book was chosen by "Jumpstart Read for the Record" to be read worldwide to millions of children on August 24th, 2006.

The current Universal Studios logo Universal Studios (sometimes called Universal Pictures), a subsidiary of NBC Universal, is one of the major American film studios that has production studios and offices located at 100 Universal City Plaza Drive in Universal City, California, an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County between Los... CSX freight train emerging from a colorful truss bridge, one of many wooden toy trains offered by Whittle Shortline. ... Thomas the Tank Engine first appeared in 1946, in the Railway Series book of the same name. ...

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  Results from FactBites:
Little Engine That Could (1440 words)
Write their responses, encouraging students to spell out loud the words 'is', 'for', and the color words.
Encourage students to think and compare themselves to the little blue engine in the story.
Then let students orally share one thing that they thought would be very hard to either do or learn in Kindergarten, but with practice they are now able to do it successfully - something they are proud of.
MIT's pint-sized car engine promises high efficiency, low cost - MIT News Office (890 words)
When the engine is working hard and knock is likely, a small amount of ethanol is directly injected into the hot combustion chamber, where it quickly vaporizes, cooling the fuel and air and making spontaneous combustion much less likely.
Second, the engine can be designed with a higher compression ratio (the ratio of the volume of the combustion chamber after compression to the volume before).
If all goes as expected, within five years vehicles with the new engine could be on the road, using an alternative fuel to replace a bit of gasoline and make more efficient use of the rest.
  More results at FactBites »



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