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3.99  ·  Rating details ·  394 ratings  ·  77 reviews
The train tracks ran right by Bigmama's house in Cottondale, and the children were warned to stay off the tracks. But one night they were late, and the tracks were a shortcut, so they started off. And when there was no turning back, they heard the train coming.
Paperback, 32 pages
Published September 20th 1996 by Greenwillow Books (first published October 23rd 1992)
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3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  394 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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Jim Erekson
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the best doesn't-preach-a-message, let children be who they are and do what they do kind of book. I often use this book to teach about complementary illustrations, which lay out a different narrative on their own than the one I get from the words.

Mostly this reminds me of spending time at my Grandma and Grandpa's house at the mouth of the Big Cottonwood Canyon, where we would take off down to the creek by the Old Mill for hours on end. Unsupervised play wins!

This gets five because I own
Oct 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Level- Elementary
This is a book that I use as a mentor text in writers' workshop. It uses great descriptive language and is great when teaching personal narrative. My students love the sounds of the train whistle and train track. The book Big Momma is another great story written by Don Crews. I am going to do an author study this year with some other Crews books.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it
"The Shortcut, " written and illustrated by Donald Crews is a book about a group of brothers and sisters who decide to take the short way home by walking on the train tracks. This book won the HBF award and was reviewed by Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal and Children's Literature. I think that this book would be appropriate for children in kindergarten - first grade. I would use this book to teach students about making predictions because the book is packed with suspense. As the story ...more
Shanna Gonzalez
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-00-04
Here is another excellent simple book for young train lovers by the inimitable Donald Crews. This book, unlike his more sedate offerings, is quite a thriller. The story starts out serenely when a group of children, hurrying home late, decide to take the forbidden train tracks home. They think all will be well until one of them hears the whistle of an unscheduled train and they must decide which way to run to get out of the way in time. Written with consummate skill, the tale builds in tension as ...more
Jan 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
The cover largely sums this book up. A group of kids, coming home at night, think they'll take the shortcut home. You know - the shortcut? Over the train tracks? Sure, they're not supposed to, but nobody will ever know, right? What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

This is apparently based upon an actual incident from Mr. Crews' life. I can believe it - the kids in the book laugh and giggle and joke and do just about everything *but* concentrate on getting home safe and sound. (That's how they ended up so
Alisha Williams
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-book
This was a good story to get children thinking about their lives. A time when they did something they knew they shouldn't of, any shortcuts they took. Different things. Good book. Also has sound words.
Michelle Nero
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
A short text that is packed with so much! Thrilling and suspenseful. The ending is powerful.
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not sure why I like this one. The message is so ominous. It resounds in a way with work ethic and doing what you are told and with the secrets of adolescence contained in peer groups.
Oct 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pb
This Donald Crews book had many words, uncharacteristically. I enjoyed that the kids learned a lesson. This is helpful in my area where there are many train tracks.
Nicole Hoag
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Genre: Children's Picture Book (MAISA Mentor Text)
My third graders really enjoyed this book, and were able to remember and point out different parts when we would revisit the story for lessons.
Feature: The words used to show sounds in the book gradually get larger as the train comes closer... This is a great book for pre-teaching to add sound words to their writing.The book also shows that authors can play with the formatting and positioning of the words to appeal to readers. We used this book i
Rachel Smith
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Crews’ works from his past childhood experiences are charming. I appreciate the adventurous spirit in the book which then leads into the understanding of consequences and caution that all children experience. I would likely use this book to discuss consequences of actions with children as well as how to be safe when walking somewhere new or even somewhere familiar.
Sharla Bazen
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Genre: Children's Picture Book (MAISA Mentor Text)

Unique feature: The sound words in the book gradually get larger as the train comes closer... This is a great book for pre-teaching to add sound words to their writing. The book also shows that as the author you can play with the formatting and positioning of the words to appeal to your readers more.

Grade level suggested 1-2
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This story reminds me of something I would have done growing up. Love how the children knew they should hurry up along this shortcut, but instead, took their own sweet time. They soon find themselves trapped on the tracks with a train quickly approaching. They find away to escape the ordeal, but were too embarrassed to tell anyone what had happened...just like I would have done.
Whitney Leanhart
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lesson
I loved reading this book and was wondering how it ends. These kids were on the train tracks trying to take a shortcut home. Then a train starts heading their way. This is a simple reminder that children should listen to what their parents say because they have reason for it.
Jo Oehrlein
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
A warning about playing/walking on railroad tracks through a story where a group of kids gets a scare.
Mrs. Ruigrok
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This would be a great mentor text for teaching narrative. Great descriptive words, illustrations and an important message too!
Mary Thomas
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pic-favorites
My boys LOVE the action and suspense of this book, especially when my oldest son was into trains.
Rosa Cline
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author took a memory from his own past with his siblings and wrote a children's book from it. It's very easy to read, and illustrations are great. so is good for any age reader-listener.
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A little old for our kids, and a bit scary for some of them. But beautifully told and illustrated. A great example of how an extremely simple plot is often all that's needed for a picture book.
This just feels so real. The little things that kids do that they know are bad ideas, but they survive, and then they never tell anyone. Childhood.
Dec 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Instant fan of this guy's childhood stories.
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Grade 2-3
Laura Molinario
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Picture Book
Main Idea
Clear lesson to be learned
Mar 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2008
The seven children in the story decide to take a shortcut home, along a train track. They are walking and playing on the track as the train is coming. While the children recognize the danger of the train, they continue to walk and play on the track. They jump off the track just as the train approaches them. The story ends with them keeping the event a secret from their family and not discussing it with each other.

There are some positive aspects of this story, particularly the illustrations and h
Mary Hohman
Oct 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Shortcut is a contemporary realistic fiction story written and illustrated by Donald Crews. The intended age group of this book is primary ages 5-8 years old. This story is about group of children who decided to take the shortcut home because it was getting late and would soon be dark. They knew when the passenger trains came but the freight trains didn’t have a schedule, so it was dangerous. I rated this book three stars because the book was really short. The illustrations are nice, I especiall ...more
Tionna Dorsey
"Short Cut" by Donald Crews is part of the contemporary realistic fiction collection. Donald Crews has won the prestigious Caldecott Award in 1979. This book is recommended for children ages5-8 years old (P) Primary.

The book "Shortcut" was about a group of children taking a shortcut home, but stumbles upon a problem. Now they wonder, walking across the train tracks were not such a good idea after all. The train starts to come and the children starts running for their life. In the end they all ma
Courtney Dyer
Shortcut is another evocative story straight out of Crews’ own childhood memories spent at Bigmama’s house. Again, Crews uses watercolor and gouache paints in rich earth tones paired with airbrush accents to bring this memorable childhood experience to life.

“We should have taken the road. But it was late, and it was getting dark, so we started down the track.” Deciding to take the shortcut, the children learn the dangers of walking on the train tracks when an unexpected freight train comes barre
Megan Baker
Oct 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shortcut is a work of contemporary realistic fiction that is intended for primary readers. It is about a group of children that decide to take a shortcut home one day. The shortcut is along train tracks and as the children walk along the tracks they hear a train coming. The children must run to get out of the trains way before they are hit. The children safely make it home and decide to never speak of the incident again.
I rated this book with two stars because there was not much of a plot. The
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
One of my all time favorites. The suspense gives me shivers.
Megan Willis
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Donald Crews' children's books always inspire memories from my own childhood. As I was reading this book, I remembered the crazy adventures that I used to have with kids from my neighborhood. There was always something that happened that we all swore not to tell our parents. Usually, it was because we explored somewhere that we were forbidden to go. I read this aloud to my students. They loved the 4 or 5 pages where it was just the TRAIN COMING LOUD! Afterwards, we discussed times where they had ...more
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Donald Crews (born August 30, 1938) is an American illustrator and writer of children's picture books. In 2015, the American Library Association (ALA) honored him with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, recognizing his lasting contribution to children's literature. Common subjects of his include modern technology (especially travel vehicles), and childhood memories. His stories often include few huma ...more
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