HomeBooks by SubjectActivity BooksMy Writing And Reading Life: Mike Vago, Creator Of Train: A Journey Through the Pages

My Writing And Reading Life: Mike Vago, Creator Of Train: A Journey Through the Pages

The Children’s Book Review | October 9, 2016

Mike Vago is the creator of the bestselling The Miniature Book of Miniature Golf and The Pocket Book of Pocket Billiards.

I write because …

This one’s tricky because I didn’t write the text of this book. I came up with the format, and the mechanics of it, and with the general concept of a train driving through different landscapes. But for this one, I didn’t do any of the writing. My wife, Lorraine Freeney, had been talking to me from the beginning about the tone of the story, she had the idea of moving through the color wheel as the train passes from one landscape to the next, and she’s a fantastic writer, so I asked her to write the text.   

I read because …

It’s just what I’ve always done! My parents taught me to read when I was 3, and I never looked back. I wrecked my eyesight reading under the covers after my bedtime, and that’s pretty much been my story ever since.

Latest published book …

Train is a children’s book that includes a toy train that actually drives through the book. Without lifting off the page, the train glides across each page, following the text as you read. When it gets to the edge of the page, it pivots, and turns to the next page and continues on its journey.

I created this book because …

My older son was obsessed with trains as a preschooler, as so many preschoolers are, so when I had the idea for the book, I thought of it as something he’d absolutely love. Then it took me so many years to work out the paper engineering that he’s now 11 and has long since moved on from his train obsession.  

Best moment …

The first time it worked. I had been teaching myself how to engineer pop-up books for another idea that didn’t pan out, and I was learning a pop-up that can slide across the page. It occurred to me that there must be a way to make it slide across the page and onto the next one. So I made a two-page prototype out of cardstock, with the “train” a folded piece of paper with a segment of paper clip attached to hold it onto the track. And it worked! 

My special place to write …

I work full-time, I write freelance for The A.V. Club, my wife and I have two kids, and we try to squeeze in a little time to ourselves now and then, so anything I do creatively has to fit around all of that stuff. So I can’t be precious about how or when I work. I’ve worked on A.V. Club pieces on my phone while my kids were at soccer practice, and I’m working on a novel I wrote all the early notes for on scraps of paper on the subway. Train and Mini Golf started off as scraps of paper  I fished out of a recycling bin and folded up at whatever moment I had the mechanics worked out in my head. You can’t wait until you’re in a special place to write, you just have to be ready when the ideas hit you.

Necessary writing/creativity tool …

People. I’m far less creative in a vacuum than I am surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues who are all pursuing their ideas.

The person who has been my greatest writing teacher or inspiration is …

For this kind of book? Peter Lippman created the Mini House series for Workman years ago — every book is diecut into a different shape on every page, so that when you close the book, it looks like a barn, or a castle, or a firehouse. Those were the books that showed me that a book’s format could be as creative as the story it told. 

Currently reading …

Gilead, What the Dog Saw, and I just burned through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. 

Favorite bookshop …

For kids, Books of Wonder in Manhattan, a kids-book-only store that includes a terrific selection of pop-up books, a glass case with old and rare children’s books, and a mini art gallery for illustrations. For adults, the Strand, a massive used bookstore you can get lost in for days. 

All-time favorite children’s book I didn’t write …

My younger son loved Leslie Patricelli’s board books so much we actually read them backwards and forwards. (“Do doggy does what? Do kitty does what?”) Her stories and illustrations both are so simple but so expressive and energetic.

Favorite illustrator …

I have a lot of illustrator friends, so it’s hard to play favorites, but I have to sing the praises of Matt Rockefeller, who illustrated Train. Each spread of the book goes through the color wheel as the train traverses different landscapes, and Matt’s able to get so much depth out of each color.

Train A Journey Through the Pages
A literary character to vacation with …

Gatsby. Whatever his flaws, I bet he’d pull out all the stops for a holiday.

When I am not reading or writing I am …

Talking to someone about what they’re reading.

Connect With Mike Vago …

Twitter: @mikevago


train-a-journey-through-the-pagesTrain: A Journey Through The Pages

Written by Mike Vago

Illustrated by Matt Rockefeller

Publisher’s Synopsis: You’ve never seen a book like this before! It’s the story of a train moving across the American landscape—but with an actual three-dimensional miniature train that loops up and down and across each spread, traveling along an interior track from front to back without ever leaving the pages.

Move the red steam engine out of the depot and to the front of the book, where the sun is just coming up over a bay, and then take a journey across wide plains, up mountains and down hills, into a city at night with its beacons of light—and finally, back to the rail yard. The panoramic landscapes are filled with marvelous details that young children will delight in discovering, and the sweet, simple rhyming language pulls the story along and will be happily repeated when it’s time to start the journey all over again. All aboard!

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Workman Publishing Company | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0761187165

Available Here: 


Discover more books like Train: A Journey Through the Pages, created by Mike Vago and illustrated Matt Rockefeller, by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with  and ; plus, be sure to follow along with our Writing and Reading Life series.

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The Children’s Book Review, named one of the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) Great Web Sites for Kids, is a resource devoted to children’s literacy. We publish reviews and book lists of the best books for kids of all ages. We also produce author and illustrator interviews and share literacy based articles that help parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to grow readers. This article was written and provided by a guest author.

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