Thursday, April 4, 2019

Classroom Connections with Skila Brown


Clackety Track: 
Poems About Trains

Skila Brown, Author
Jamey Christoph, Illustrator

Candlewick Press (March 12, 2019)
ISBN: 978-0763690472

For grades 1-4

Purchase at
Purchase at Barnes & Noble
Purchase via


Queue up for a whistle-stop tour of trains of all kinds, narrated in lively verse and featuring dynamic retro artwork.

Rows of grooves, cables, and bars.
Graffiti rockin’ out the cars.
A badge of rust. A proud oil stain.
There’s nothin’ plain about a train.

Trains of all shapes and sizes are coming down the track — bullet train, sleeper train, underground train, zoo train, and more. All aboard! Skila Brown’s first-class poems, as varied as the trains themselves, reflect the excitement of train travel, while Jamey Christoph’s vintage-style illustrations provide a wealth of authentic detail to pore over.


Text copyright © 2019 by Skila Brown. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Jamey Christoph.


Skila Brown's first job was working on a train. She sold hot dogs through the window of a shiny red caboose in the coal-filled hills of eastern Kentucky. Now she writes books for readers of all ages from her home in Indiana.


Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Poetry is concise and specific; it doesn't waste words. Listening to it and creating it forces us to sharpen our communication skills and better express what we are trying to say.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

April is National Poetry month! Always a good time to find ways to bring poetry into the classroom. But outside of language arts, Clackety Track has social studies tie-ins (time zones were created because of trains!) and science explorations (how does steam power an engine?)

Can you suggest a specific classroom exercise related to your book?

The educator's guide for Clackety Track: Poems About Trains contains classroom activities. View (and download) HERE.

What is a simple, practical tip for teachers when it comes to incorporating poetry in the classroom?

Poems are great tools for transition times. Finished up with math for the day and ready to have students line up for recess? Why not take thirty seconds to read aloud an appropriate poem. Keeping a good poetry anthology on your desk can help serve as a quick way to settle down students and get them ready for the next part of the day.

Can you recount a specific instance of when poetry impacted a student or group of students in a positive way?

I'm constantly hearing from ENL teachers that for kids who are struggling to learn a new language, a novel in verse or a book of poems is such a good choice for reading. The white space and low word count per page means they can turn the page more frequently. It brings along the feeling of success and thus keeps them engaged.



Many thanks to Skila for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and for offering a copy of Clackety Track: Poems About Trains to one randomly selected TLD reader! (US addresses only.)

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Clackety Track Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 2nd, so be sure to check back to see if you've won!

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Check out the other Classroom Connections posts and giveaways on offer this month by clicking the names below!

Digital art © 2018 by Miranda Barnes,
based on a line from "Ghazal" by Tracy K. Smith.


The best way to keep up with the Classroom Connections series is by subscribing to Today's Little Ditty via email, which you can do in the sidebar. I will also be announcing the posts on social media. Like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter (also in the sidebar) to stay informed that way. Catch up with Classroom Connections posts you may have missed by clicking on the "It's time to INSPIRE" icon in the sidebar, or by visiting my "Poetry in the Classroom" board on Pinterest.


  1. Good Morning! I'm always happy to see Skila Brown's name on a new book. I fell in love with her poetry in Caminar. You are right about verse novels...the white space is very inviting. It allows self-pacing. Another great group for poetry books like this is our old-kids in Sp.Ed. As a librarian I'm asked frequently for complex subjects in "easy" books. Sometimes, poetry just does the job. Many congrats on this book. And, thanks for stopping in today. I've looked for Skila on Social Media to follow her success...but I don't see her there. Which is probably WHY she's able to be such a productive writer? It's nice to have the chance to say, well, done! And, I'm a fan. Keep writing.

  2. Oh we have all kinds of train lovers in this family! Can't wait to see this book. Already loving the poems, art and words. Thanks so much Michelle and Skila. Janet Clare F.

  3. My father-in-law was a train engineer and would have loved this new book, as will young readers who may think of trains as a mystery they see only clickety-clacking by. We had lots of fun riding the train when I was younger, now in Denver can take a 'ski train' up to one ski area. Thanks, Skila & Michelle.

  4. Enjoyed Skila's responses to your questions! That's interesting that her first job was selling hot dogs from a caboose. She brought back a memory of my hometown's Caboose Park, which had, natch, a red caboose. I remember playing on it, and the sound of our feet clomping across it so satisfyingly. :-)

  5. Every train-loving kid will love this book. I can't wait to read the whole thing. And a great teacher's guide too! Thanks so much!

  6. My son-in-law is an engineer for the Union Pacific and we are a train-loving family. I can't wait to read this book.