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Maybelle the Cable Car
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Maybelle the Cable Car

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  429 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
By recounting actual events in San Francisco's effort to keep the city's cable cars running, this classic story illustrates how the voice of the people can be heard in the true spirit of democracy.
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published March 31st 1997 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1952)
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(showing 1-30)
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May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lots of detail for the little ones to pore over, and an excellent lesson in the power of the people for older children. Lively pictures, too. Anyone interested in SF will especially enjoy it, I'm sure. I rounded up from 3.5 stars because I support more environmentally sound forms of transportation, as cable cars are compared to buses....
Jun 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of 1910-1950 San Fransico and cable cars
I probably would have given this book three stars if it weren't for the nostalgic appeal. Burton wrote "Katy and the Big Snow" and "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" and "The Little House" which I doted on as a kid. Also, I have a soft spot for San Francisco in the 19-teens as I love that era in history and my grandpa was a boy there then. This story is cute and a good little history lesson, though nothing especially splendid. I didn't realize that in the late 1940s the cable cars were almost ...more
A charming picture book telling the story of the San Franciscan cable cars and how they were saved from disappearance by some loyal San Franciscans who recognized what a loss these historical cars would be. The pictures are cute and just right for the story, and the story is told an informative yet fun way.
J. Boo
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
I suppose I'd love this if I was an inhabitant of San Francisco, but I'm not, so I don't. Rather dull for this outsider.

DS #1 (age 5) & DD (age 3) were too restless for me to finish more than a couple of pages.
Michael Fitzgerald
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Not quite as good as Burton's other books because it gets a bit too detailed and historical.
Brendan Howard
Oct 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-to-zahara
Less for Z, and more for me.
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
August 2017 - Ben's fascinated by cable cars and trolleys and things of that sort, but I think he would have enjoyed it even more with slightly larger, clearer diagrams of how it all works - those illustrations were disappointingly tiny. Fun to read aloud, on the long side, and for a bonus it shows kids how democracy and political activism work.
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: children
Some stories probably hold up better over time. I borrowed this from the library because I loved her artwork in Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, but this artwork wasn't nearly as beautiful to me. Making matters worse, Big Bill, the yellow bully bus turned green in the middle of the story for no reason.
I love Virginia Lee Burton's books, so I immediately picked this one up while looking for car books for my son. It is based off the true story of how the city of San Francisco banded together to save the cable cars, despite the city fathers wanting to get rid of them in the name of progress. Maybelle, as the title suggests, is one of the old cable cars that is thankfully spared the chopping block and her and her fellow cable cars are allowed to run up and down the hilly city. She eventually beco ...more
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
My 2.75yo loves anything with wheels, but I was a little surprised how much he enjoyed this story, since he's never seen a cable car before. Burton obviously wrote and drew this story with love for her subject. My favorite aspect of the artwork is that the vehicles have personality and feelings, but they're not heavily anthropomorphic, unlike, say, Tonka's Chuck the Truck: Maybelle has a very subtle droop to her lines after hearing some sad news; Big Bill the Bus doesn't have "eyes" in his winds ...more
Jackie B. - Death by Tsundoku
I love how Virginia Lee Burton is constantly surprising me with real information.

Maybelle tells the story of how San Francisco was going to shut down their cable cars, and the citizens voted to save them. It was an unexpected twist for me, since I didn't expect it to be based on a true story. In Burton's typical style she does a great job providing personality to the vehicles in question. In this book, we meet both Maybelle (and learn all the sweet things about how a cable car actually works) a
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sonlight-p3-4
When I read this story with my daughter, she wasn't that interested. I really like Virginia Burton's books because of how much detail they have in the illustrations. With my daughter, we just read the story and didn't linger. But I read the book with my son yesterday and he was pointing at all the 'extra' text and wanted to know what everything said and really seemed to enjoy it. I like that its historical and that it teaches how voting works.
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: children-2015
Maybelle the cable car is a cute enough book about the long history of San Francisco's cable cars but I think the majority of it was lost on my 3 year old who has never been to California and has never seen a cable car. The book also talks quite a bit about legislative process: petitions, polls, voting, etc. The subject matter doesn't seem to match up with the intended audience but maybe that's just me.
Apr 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephanie by: Sonlight
Shelves: homeschool
Although I don't particularly like this this story my son LOVES it. The pictures entice him despite the length of the story. As soon as we finished reading the book, he picked it up by himself and began creating his own story based on the pictures. Adorable. So I guess we can give it a thumbs up based on his love for the book.
May 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
We love Virginia Lee Burton's books so much and this was no exception. This is the true story about how the citizens of San Francisco saved the city's cable cars from retirement. It's beautifully illustrated and well-written - a wonderful story about the power of the people to make their voices heard.
May 06, 2014 rated it liked it
This week I have read a treasury that contains 4 of Burton's stories. This is definitely my favorite. I do not have any real interest in cars or steam shovels or snow plows. But I do love San Francisco and really enjoyed this historical story of how the citizens had to work to protect the cable cars. It was the history, especially, that I enjoyed.
this is one of the best books about the city i've ever read.
great description of howcable cars work. it is also a perfect use of graphics, story and art. this is an eary example of of graphic non-fiction.
Sep 10, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: logans-books
Just okay...definitely not as great as some of her other books. My son is a HUGE fan of Mike Mulligan and Choo Choo so we have been checking all her other books out of the library each week. This one is cute, just not as cute. Also, I think my son didn't really get the whole moral of the story.
Tim Askin
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Looking back at this book recently as a potential present to a dear friend's child, I realize this may have been the first step down my career path in historic preservation. Thank you, Ms. Burton, even if I'm realizing it 20+ years late.
Aug 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
Cute story that reminded me of our trip to SF and trips on Cable cars. My 4 year old loved it. Not her strongest story but still fun.
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: from-library
47 months - a fairly wordy book recounting how the San Francisco trolleys were saved. Probably not an everyday read but we enjoyed it from the library.
May 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-books
I loved this book!
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Charming story, fun bit of San Francisco history still evident today
Mandy E
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-babes
i really loved this story as one of tender conservation, but there was a little too much information going on to hold the interest of the kids, even with my voices, noises and faces.
Apr 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-book, 5-plus
More a history lesson about San Francisco - long.
Brenna Johnson
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Another classic by Virginia Lee Burton. I read it as part of the collection Mike Mulligan and other stories.
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
great book that shows SF Cable cars and history of SF.
Beautiful story about historical cable cars and an effort to save them.
Dec 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What a GREAT look at the San Fransisco cable cars. We LOVED this book!
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
The absolutely fabulous detailed drawings pull me into this story every time. Read it to dozens of first grade classes over the years (along with her more well-known titles) and it was always a hit.
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Virginia Lee Burton was an American illustrator and children's book author. Burton produced seven self-illustrated children's books. She married Boston Museum school sculptor, George Demetrios, with whom she had two sons and lived in Folly Cove, Gloucester. She died at 59.

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