My own children are, for all intents and purposes, addicted to the Thomas and Friends CGI show. I’ve brought the same joy into the classroom on occasion, but when I’ve tried to bring any of the older versions into either my home or classroom, the kids’ responses have been generally tinged with boredom. The art growth of Thomas books over the years has been interesting to watch: from the original books which contain far more text then pictures, to the updated Golden books with cut the text down a bit, to the easy-read books which are 30-word rhymes hidden inside massive, colorful murals—all white space removed.
Likewise the shows have changed. In the 50s, they attempted a black-and white version with some moving parts, but really hit it big with the live-action show in color, with such stand-up citizens as Ringo Starr, George Carlin, and Alec Baldwin narrating. Shining Time Station adding a storyline to Mr. Conductor’s escapades, and soon the choo-choos’ plastic faces were replaced with computer animation. Nowadays, the shows are 100% CGI, and more full-length movies are available. I’m not sure what’s next for the Thomas line, but I do hope the characters maintain their popularity with children the world over. Awdry’s creations are true class acts.
In Easter in Harwick, the artwork is a bit more subdued than most modern Thomas books, the text only slightly thinner than Awdry’s originals. It’s a callback to the old-school stories, which hopefully reminds kids that entertainment can still occur apart from computer animation.
Regarding the story itself, Easter in Harwick (shown to be a town on a map of Sodor in the very beginning of the book) is an excellent introduction for kids to springtime. It allows for guessing, giving it a mysterious twist that keeps the children engaged, and it also teaches about many of the colors of spring. If read on Kindle Paperwhite, the colors are absent, so if this is an e-book you’d like to use for class, it’s much better looking when tossed up onto a projector.