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Maybelle the Cable Car
Maybelle the Cable Car
Maybelle the Cable Car
by Virginia Lee Burton

Maybelle loves to carry people up and down the hilly streets of San Francisco, until the City Fathers decide that she should be taken out of service in the name of progress.

Age: 4 Year-olds | Title: Maybelle the Cable Car  |  Author: Virginia Lee Burton  |  Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Maybelle loves to carry people up and down the hilly streets of San Francisco, until the City Fathers decide that she should be taken out of service in the name of progress.

Written in 1952, Maybelle the Cable Car is rich with historical faces, telling the true plight of the San Francisco residents to save their cable cars from extinction. The book contains a foreword, which explains that Andrew Hallidie created cable cars because he could no longer bear to see poor horses being forced to haul everyone around those super steep - and often wet - hills. The pictures are ink lined and water colors and surround the white space. One two-page spread details each piece of the cable car; readers will learn where the levers, break, emergency break, bell, and other parts are. Your little one may feel like they are ready to drive the cable car after hearing the book a few times. The main San Francisco streets are also named along the sides of some pages, so you'll know your way around! Fun sound effect words like "clingety clang," and "ting ting," as well as giving dialogue to the cars, makes reading aloud more fun.

Maybelle's story explains politics in a way children can understand; it shows how people can ban together and fight laws to make things happen (or, in Maybelle's case, not happen). "Every day there were speeches and the people started taking sides. Some said 'YES' and some said 'NO' but nobody said perhaps or maybe." Maybelle's positive attitude and hard work ethic are excellent lessons to bring to your child's attention. Finally, the book mentions the cable cars would settle in for the night and play a game called 'Remember when...' which would be a fun game to play with your little one at the end of the day as you're cuddled up in bed.

My three-year-old friend, Sam, loved to point at the pages and yell "Choo choo!" at the cable cars and "Hip hip hooray!" at the picture of a parade. He also smiled back at the pictures of the sun and moon with grins. I stressed to Sam that cable cars are real and perhaps one day he would get to ride on one.


Virginia Lee Burton (1909-1968) was the talented author and illustrator of some of the most enduring books ever written for children. The winner of the 1942 Caldecott Medal for The Little House, Burton's books include heroes and happy endings, lively illustrations, and a dash of nostalgia. She lived with her two sons, Aristides and Michael, and her husband George Demetrios, the sculptor, in a section of Gloucester, Massachusetts, called Folly Cove. Here she taught a class in design and from it emerged the Folly Cove designers, a group of internationally known professional artisans. She is the author of many classic children's picture books, including Mike Mulligann and His Steam Shovel.

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