Thomas mania has hit our house.


Thomas love


It happened all of a sudden, without any warning whatsoever. One day, Ham wasn’t interested in anything on tracks; the next, he was downright obsessed with trains, especially with Thomas. It’s a mystery as to how this came to be, as we never watched the show. Ham had only seen part of a Thomas compilation DVD months before. At the time, he expressed no special interest. Did the Thomas virus just take this long to incubate? When Ham turned 2, was some sort of rails-loving, boy-child hardwiring activated?

No doubt about it, the wheel was invented by a male caveperson. I am astounded at how little boys can spend so much time rolling a toy car or train back and forth. And, of course, sooner or later that car or train must suddenly be seized with a suicidal or murderous urge and crash dramatically. Did the caveman who invented the wheel have his stone prototype roll into something? Did he, too, make that pkhow crashing sound?

Anyway, back to Thomas. I, for one, have always found Thomas and his crew totally creepy-looking. Those plaster-hued, pliable faces with the cheekbones and chins and haunted eyes…. I didn’t understand why kids loved them so much. When I tried watching that DVD with Ham, I was bored to tears. I was thankful back then that Ham wasn’t into the whole Thomas thing.

But now that he is and I’ve been forced to watch the show, read the books and familiarize myself with the characters, I am beginning to get it. And, after reading some of the books, I am even starting to appreciate their educational value. I like that the stories all teach ethical lessons that are not spelled out. Every character is flawed in some way, but what all the trains of Sodor (that’s where Thomas and his ilk live and work, for those who have not been Thomas-initiated) want most is to feel Really Useful, as the books say, and to please the jowly Sir Topham Hatt, their human boss. I can see how the premise strikes a primal chord in small children.

I am amazed at how quickly Ham mastered all the names and faces of the trains as well as their corresponding numbers. Nica, too, in an act of sibling solidarity, has memorized all the trains’ names and numbers, as well as the song. I have been slower to learn; the song especially confounds me.

So, I am surprised to have become somewhat of a Thomas fan myself. Even though I still find him a little creepy-lookin’.

Ham’s current top 10 books

These are the books Ham (19 mos) is constantly pestering me to read him really interested in these days.


1) Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

A classic. I am not a fan of Eric Carle’s art, myself, but clearly most people, especially kids, dig it. I love reading this one aloud—very fun. Ham is obsessed with this book right now and will “read” it to himself after I’ve read it to him four times in a row.


2) The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

A beautifully illustrated, adorable little story about a mouse that is getting conned (by the reader!) into sharing a strawberry. Ham coos and squeals while I read this to him.


3) Tickle the Duck!

The appeal is obvious.


4) The Little Engine That Could

It’s not the positive message or the lovely story that Ham is after. There’s a small Humpty Dumpty that appears on several pages, and every time Ham points him out, I am to sing the Humpty Dumpty song. Here are two examples of Mr. Dumpty’s cameos:

Ham even noticed this one.


5) Kitten’s First Full Moon

Kitten mistakes the reflection of the moon on the water for a bowl of milk. Much hardship ensues. Ham really feels for the kitten and is thrilled for her when she gets her bowl of milk in the end. The art is so simple, bold and high-contrast, both my kids enjoyed this book even as infants.


6) When I Feel Sad

Are you trying to tell me something, Ham?


7) Goldilocks and the Three Bears

This version of the story doesn’t stray too far from the original, but the snappy writing and slick illustrations make it feel fresh—and very funny! I especially love the way Goldilocks is portrayed (as the brat that she is). Ham understands a lot of the story, surprisingly, and he thinks Goldilocks is a riot.


8) I Am a Bunny

I Am A Bunny Board Book

Simple and sweet descriptions of what Nicholas the bunny does during each season. The illustrations are typical Richard Scarry—darling and gorgeous. Ham loves pointing at the animals and learning their names. When reading this to the kids, I often get the urge to put on my manliest voice and say “I AM BUNNY.” “NO, I AM BUNNY!” “NO, I AM BUNNY.” But the kids wouldn’t get it. So, I resist the urge. It’s tough being a mother.


9) Chugga Chugga Choo Choo


Ham loves looking at the cool art and repeating the whoo-whoo and choo-choo sounds, but there is another perk for Ham: There is a Humpty Dumpty in this, too! I had no idea Mr. Dumpty liked to ride the rails so much.


10) Big Girls Use the Potty!

I don’t know where Ham found this, but this is one of the books I used to read to Nica when I was toilet-training her. Even though this book does not show a single toilet—only potties—Ham has gleaned that they’re basically the same thing. So, he has become fascinated by the toilet and keeps wanting to stick his hand in the bowl. Also, he now thinks that when his sister is on the can, it is a great time and place to socialize with her. I really gotta hide this book.