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Freight TrainThis weekend marks the 76th birthday of author and illustrator Donald Crews. His books are perennial favorites for their bold colors and simple storytelling.

Raised in Newark, New Jersey and trained in graphic arts at New York’s Cooper Union, Crews didn’t set out to become a children’s book author and illustrator. His first book, an illustrated alphabet, was conceived as a portfolio exercise to show potential employers his skills in color, line, and typography. It was at the urging of some friends that he considered submitting the book to children’s book publishers, and it made it to shelves in 1967. It was followed by a string of other books, including the Caldecott Honors books Freight Train(1979) and Truck (1981).

After many well-received books on trucks, buses, trains and the like, Crews tapped into his own personal experiences to publish a pair of books based on his summers spent in the south visiting his grandparents. These books, Bigmama’s(1991) and Shortcut(1992), resonate with so many because they bring the thrills and beauty of childhood summertime to life in a way that crackles off the page.

His books have dozens of readers from toddlers to teachers presenting them on YouTube, but it was this kid-made biography that caught our eye. Enjoy:


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