Andrew King (text) Benjamin Johnston (illus.), Engilina’s Trains, Little Steps, 1 July 2017, 40pp., $24.95 (hbk), ISBN 9781925117851
Engilina’s Trains introduces readers in the 8 to 10 year old range to the basic considerations and principles of Engineering in a ‘problem solving’ exercise where various options have to be investigated and the best solution discovered. The problem for Engilina, Engibear and Bearbot is how to build a new Maglev train service between two towns and, in particular, how to find a route into an already crowded city centre. Their novel solution includes learning about the existing track system, obstacles presented by rivers and tunnels, how steam trains work, and the contrast between past and future transport systems.
Engilina’s Trains revisits the characters and setting from the earlier publications Engibear’s Dream (2012) and Engibear’s Bridge (2014). Here, Engilina is cast in a positive female role as the Project Manager, but teamwork is emphasised as they work together to solve many difficulties. Benjamin Johnston’s brightly coloured illustrations are full of activity while the quality gloss paper also makes the book attractive to young readers. Often there is a division between the top and bottom of the page allowing information and storylines to run congruently. It also includes technical drawings, definitions and portions of the page that contrast modern railway technology with that from the past.
The growing popularity of STEM subjects in schools indicates the importance attached to areas of study such as Engineering. The bright and busy text contributes to this reputation by engaging young readers, enhancing their knowledge and challenging their imagination to solve practical engineering problems.
Reviewed by John Nolan