My mother always talked about her father who died when she was young about how he built his own plane and flew it. He immigrated with my grandmother from Hiroshima and never learned English so, despite being a history teacher in Japan, he worked as a servant for a wealthy family in San Francisco.
I never quite believed my grandfather could build and fly an airplane back in what seems like the 1930s so when my mother passed away, and I was sorting through boxes and boxes of old family photos, I found photographic evidence of the plane she described.
Here he is with this plane that he built himself. My grandparents lived in San Francisco’s Japantown where my grandmother ran a boarding house. There would not have been room to house an airplane where they lived so my grandfather would have had to have access to some kind of warehouse space or airplane hangar to build the plane. I’m not sure how my grandfather had the time or money for this but clearly, he made it happen!
My maternal grandfather built and flew this plane from San Francisco to Sonoma during the 1930s.
This looks like the type of airplane that the Wright brothers flew. I’m sure there were no flight schools back then, so my grandfather would have had to build the plane and teach himself how to fly the plane. The photo was taken in Sonoma so he must have flown the plane from San Francisco to Sonoma on a perfect day with no wind, as these planes seem quite dangerous!
This post is a tribute to my grandfather, who, despite never learning English, managed to make his dream of flying come true. There are so many ways to get around — planes, trains, automobiles, and more — let’s explore the picture books that depict these wonders of transportation!
I’m giving away the picture book, Is This the Bus for Us? To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom.
How about you? What are your favorite books about transportation? Thanks for sharing!
Children’s Books About Transportation
Is This the Bus for Us? by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Richard Brown
I recently conquered my fear of buses when I was in Singapore with my middle daughter. She is fearless at taking public transportation and can always figure out how to get places. I tried to take the bus when I first went to college in Boston and took the wrong bus, ending up at the wrong location. That was my one and only attempt until Singapore besides the predictable school bus. By taking the bus a dozen times recently, I finally figured out when to ring the bell to make sure the bus stops, and, more importantly, figure out the correct bus and then wait patiently for it to arrive. This is the theme of Is This the Bus for Us? It turns out to be great life advice for those learning to use the public bus system.
In this fanciful picture book, identifying the correct bus is easy based on the bus design and its passengers. I’d love to ride all these buses! [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Room for Everyone by Naaz Kahn, illustrated by Mercè López
The daladala is a bus in Zanzibar that can get quite crowded, but it turns out, there is room for everyone and their stuff! There is so much to love about this charming picture book. The rhyming text is fun to read and gives a lot of detail about Zanzibar and its people. The passengers with their items also make this a counting-to-10 picture book. The ending is satisfying and feels like the reader has taken a scenic tour around the island. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña
Daisy’s favorite time of day is when her dad comes home from work and takes her for a motorcycle ride. They pass through her neighborhood as the sun sets where she passes her teacher, friends, and her abuelita’s church. Seeing a fruit store out of business makes her sad, but when they pass her father’s job at a construction site, they find a nice surprise! This is a love letter to the author’s father and her hometown in Corona, California. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Together We Ride by Valerie Bolling, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
Celebrate father-daughter love and the achievement of a childhood rite of passage. With a little courage, a guiding hand from her dad, and an enthusiastic bark from her pup, one brave girl quickly learns the freedom that comes from an afternoon spent outside on a bike. Valerie Bolling uses a minimal number of words that still manage to pack an emotional punch about the challenge and thrill of learning how to ride a bicycle. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Duck on a Bike by David Shannon
Duck had a great idea to ride a bike and it turns out to be fun for all the barnyard animals. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry
This is a beloved book from my childhood that depicts all manner of cars and trucks. The shoe car and pickle truck are some of my favorites. Richard Scarry has both a story of the Pig family taking a trip and passing fanciful modes of transportation along with a plethora of actual types of cars and trucks. This is a classic that never gets old as humor is intertwined in every page spread. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Dusky Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichetenheld
It’s nighttime and animals load the train with fanciful cargo. Is this a dream of a happy train enthusiast? The playful rhyming text pairs perfectly with this story which ensures sweet dreams. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
Stanley’s Train by William Bee
In this simple but sweet story, Stanley and Charlie work on a coal-powered train, transporting passengers to the seaside. Pair this with Room for Everyone for two different experiences to get to the beach. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
The Adventures of Taxi Dog by Debra and Sal Barracca, illustrated by Mark Buehner
A taxi driver rescues a street dog and gives him a loving home. The dog rides shotgun as his owner drives passengers around all day; each with their own story told in rhyme in the Triquatrain form. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
I am the Subway by Kim Kyo-eun, translated by Deborah Smith
Travel to Seoul, Korea to meet and experience its extensive subway system. Individual subway riders are profiled in free verse as the train makes its way from stop to stop. The subway train itself is the main character in this story, keenly observing but not judging the people who ride it. I thought the passengers would connect by the end of the book in some cohesive way, but no. True to a subway ride, all kinds of riders get on and off, and never really interact except as passengers in the same car. The illustrations are my favorite part of this book. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
The Secret Subway by Shana Corey, illustrated by Red Nose Studio
How did New York City’s subway system get built? This is the story of how the subway came to be built underground thanks to Alfred Ely Beach who had an idea and a sneaky way of getting it done. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Subway by Christoph Niemann
A father and two children go on a subway adventure in New York City, riding many lines that cover more than 840 miles of subway tracks! The rhyming story is paired with simple graphic illustrations reminiscent of the figures in subway signage. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
T is for Tugboat: Navigating the Seas from A to Z by Shoshanna Kirk, illustrated by Traci N. Todd
Let’s not forget transportation by sea! This nautical alphabet book includes a rowboat, steamship, all manner of sailboats, Square-riggers, Viking ships, Dragon boats, and more! [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Transportation in Many Cultures by Martha E. H. Rustad
Discover how people travel all around the world. Paddle boats, snowmobiles, camels, and monorails are more unusual forms of transportation introduced in this nonfiction picture book. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
The Flying Man: Otto Lilienthal, the World’s First Pilot by Mike Downs, illustrated by David Hohn
I thought of my grandfather when I first encountered this book. He wasn’t the first pilot, but he was a pioneer in aviation in San Francisco’s Japantown! In 1862, hot air balloons were the only way to fly until Otto Lilienthal created a new mode of transportation. Any child who has ever aspired to fly in the sky can relate to his creativity and ultimate achievement. [picture book, ages 7 and up]
Means of Transport That ALMOST Changed the World by Martin Sodomka, Stepanka Sekaninova, illustrated by
These inventions almost made it big, but despite not having commercial success, they ignited the imagination! A car that is a giant tire. A rocket pack belt. An aircraft that looks like a flying saucer. These are just a few of the inventions that almost changed the world. [middle grade nonfiction anthology, ages 12 and up]
Transported: 50 Vehicles That Changed the World by Matt Ralphs, illustrated by Rui Ricardo
Starting in ancient times with canoes and chariots, this beautifully illustrated picture book covers 50 vehicles and their significance. Delving into both technology and history, readers will have a deeper appreciation for transportation inventions and their role in cultures, war, and history. [picture book, ages 9 and up]
Is This the Bus for Us? picture book GIVEAWAY!
Thank you to Red Comet Press for providing this book for the giveaway. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter below. I can only mail to U.S. and A.F.O. addresses.
p.s. Related posts:
To examine any book more closely at Indiebound or Amazon, please click on image of book.
As an Amazon and IndieBound Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Food for the Future: Sustainable Farms Around the World
- Junior Library Guild Gold selection
- Selected as one of 100 Outstanding Picture Books of 2023 by dPICTUS and featured at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair
- Starred review from School Library Journal
- Chicago Library’s Best of the Best
- Imagination Soup’s 35 Best Nonfiction Books of 2023 for Kids