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The life lessons of the “Trois Petits Moteurs”


Locomotive # 40 is over a hundred years old – still with a fire in its stomach that has made it weave its way through the Connecticut countryside to this day. Now, It is determination. It is reminiscent of “The Little Engine That Could”, which trains in the children’s classic that, for over 90 years, has taught us that believing in ourselves can help us overcome life’s difficulties. .

But let’s go back down that mountain for a second. While the mantra “I think I can, I think I can …” works pretty well for the Little Blue Engine, what about those who think they can not?

“Working hard and believing in yourself makes achieving your dreams possible, but not always likely,” said Bob McKinnon, author and adjunct professor who teaches social mobility. He has just written what he considers a companion to “The Little Engine That Could, ” called “Trois Petits Moteurs”.

The life lessons of the “Trois Petits Moteurs”

Grosset & Dunlap


“The station master called the Small Blue Engine:” You are up first. Are you ready ? “Yes, ma’am,” she replied, and she left … “

In her story, the Little Blue Engine does what it always does:

“From top to top, the Little Blue Engine climbed up, huffing, ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can …'”

But his friends – the fierce and confident Yellow Passenger Engine and the mighty and fiery Red Freight Engine – don’t have it so easy. They each encounter problems in their tracks which, through no fault of their own, force them to stop.

The life lessons of the “Trois Petits Moteurs”

Grosset & Dunlap


McKinnon said: “Early in my life I was the engine that stuck. I literally had things falling on my track or winds blowing in my face, and I was too tired to continue. .. “

McKinnon grew up poor, raised by a single mother. No one in her family had ever been to college. McKinnon was the first to graduate from Penn State in 1990. But it was bittersweet.

“I felt more guilty and angry when I looked back and saw friends or family in trouble,” he told correspondent Lee Cowan. “I was mad at the system. I was mad at, like, how can we, as a country that gives opportunities for some kids or some people, you know, to do right, let it down. so many people? And so, I was frustrated that they were still struggling. “

Granted, social mobility is a pretty big issue for kids, but McKinnon hopes to bring it up by teaching them that they each have their own tracks to follow – they’re not always equal, but accepting help is a sign. of strength, not weakness.

Cowan asked, “At one point you actually sat down and made a list of everyone who helped you along the way. And the list ended up being quite long?

“Yes,” McKinnon said. “I can’t tell you how good it has made me feel, and how lucky and blessed I am.”

The whole idea of ​​Horatio Alger that courage and good character can improve our situation is as old as the transcontinental railroad itself. What is often overlooked, McKinnon said, is the role empathy and compassion also play in success. “I guess if I had a wish I would like people to use it as an opportunity to really think about their trip,” he said.

McKinnon wrote the first draft of his idea in a fairly appropriate place: a notebook his own children used to color and doodle. “Forgive my chicken scratch!” He wrote it in one sitting.

The life lessons of the “Trois Petits Moteurs”
Bob McKinnon’s original manuscript for “Three Small Engines”.

CBS News


Sorry, spoiler alert! No tears here – there is a happy ending. All three managed to cross the mountain.

The plot twist? The little blue engine returned to help its friends, a gesture that sparked enthusiasm from small critics.

Amelia said: “I liked how all of their trains had their different personalities.”

Elizabeth said, “Two thumbs up and a smiley face! “

We should all whistle every time we climb and climb a mountain – but real success is in giving others that boost so they can do it too.


For more information:


Story produced by Aria Shavelson. Publisher: Steven Tyler.

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