originally posted elsewhere: December 23, 2003
tl;dr: Perfect! My daughers were both mesmerized...
My second daughter has now fallen in love with this book, at about the same age as her older sister did (3 and 1/2). So, we are reading it every single night, often multiple times. If her older sister is any guide, this will probably continue for about 6 months.
This is simply an absolutely perfect children's story. The plot has some tension to keep the child's interest to the end of the story. The story shows how small people (or trains, if you want to be literal) with a good heart (like a child) can make a big difference in the world. The illustrations are extremely colorful and magical. The only fault (this is incredibly minor) I can find is the one-time usage of the word "indignantly", which no child is going to know. Other than that, I wouldn't change any other word or aspect of this book.
It's also a fun story for an adult to read out loud. I enjoy using different voices for the arrogant Shiny New Engine, the gruff Freight Engine, and the tired Old Engine, as well as helpful Little Blue Engine's famous repetitive cadence ("I think I can").
It will be a sad day when my youngest outgrows this book. Don't deny yourself or your child the pleasure - buy it!