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Three Little Engines

From Bob McKinnon comes this modern retelling of the beloved classic, Little Engine that Could, that asks young readers, “How does your journey differ from others?” It also serves as a thank you letter to all the parents, teachers, role models, and even strangers, who help to clear the storm or pull the tree trunk from their track.

Available in your favorite bookstores.

The Work of
Bob McKinnon

This website features the work of Bob McKinnon. He is a writer, designer, podcast host, children’s author and teacher. What unites all of his work is the desire to help others move up in life – just as others have helped him. Learn more about Bob and his work in the About section of this website.

Three Little Engines

I think I can, I think I can, I think I… can’t?  What’s an Engine to do when even believing in yourself won’t get you to the top of the mountain? In this modern retelling of the beloved The Little Engine That Could, The Little Blue Engine and her friends attempt to reach the town on the other side of the mountain, but they quickly realize that not every engine is on the same track, and they all face different obstacles in their journey. In Three Little Engines author Bob McKinnon asks young readers: How does your journey differ from others?

While paying homage to the beloved classic, author Bob McKinnon acknowledges that although positive thinking and confidence are important, they are not always enough to help you succeed. In many instances, success requires a helping hand. This book is a gentle introduction to the idea of socioeconomic mobility and inequality in America. Heavily inspired by his own experiences, McKinnon teaches the youngest of readers how to recognize opportunity and inequality in the American Dream, and, most importantly, how to extend a helping hand to those on different tracks of life. At its heart, Three Little Engines is a thank you letter to all the parents, teachers, role models, and even strangers, who help to clear the storm or pull the tree trunk from your track.

On sale July 13th, 2021. Pre-order today from your favorite online bookseller:

What is Your American Dream Score

What is Your American Dream Score?

Spend five minutes taking this quiz, and you’ll find out what factors were working in your favor and what you had to overcome to get where you are today. At the end, you’ll receive an overall score and a personalized summary of the results (and probably a big dose of pride and gratitude).

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Blind

We knew this moment would come.  

Throughout the pandemic, our family has been watching Little House on the Prairie.  It has in many ways been a cathartic experience, watching the Ingalls family with all of its struggles persevere through no shortage of difficult times.

While the book has been subject to recent criticisms, the television series from my youth has held up remarkably well – tackling issues of poverty, race, Native American relations with nuance and compassion largely unseen today. There was even a prescient episode where a virus rips through Walnut Grove. It is only through their solidarity and sacrifice that they are able to survive. 

This is a recurring theme throughout the show. While each of the characters display grit and hard work, the role of community in overcoming adversity is central. The term social capital wasn’t en vogue then but it is hard to argue that all in Walnut Grove was rich with it.

For all the trials and tribulations the Ingalls family faced, one loomed larger than most. Our children had read the books, my wife and I had watched the series, and yet we all still dreaded the eventual episode where Mary Ingalls, the oldest and perhaps purest of the children, would lose her sight and go blind.

So there it was last week, the two-part episode titled:  “I’ll be waving as you drive away” popped up in our queue and we watched it as a family.

As the joke goes, there was a lot of pollen in the air in our living room, as dry eyes were hard to find. The scene when Pa has to tell his daughter she is going blind will move you to tears as you contemplate ever having to deliver that kind of news to a loved one. The scene when Mary wakes up to discover that she has gone completely blind will rip your heart out.

Screaming for her father to come, she is frightened by the darkness that will be her new reality. Calling on him to hold her tighter and tighter, she is devastated by what is lost and will never be found again.

In reflecting on this episode, I began to think of my own proverbial blindness. My fear in accepting those things I’ve lost and will never regain or confronting the darkness in my character that manifests in certain biases that I prefer to dismiss rather than see.

We are all blind in our own way. Unwilling to see those things about ourselves, our family, our society that we don’t like. Afraid, like Mary, to accept this reality – to confront our darkness.

The second part of this episode shows Mary finally coming to terms with her situation. The self-pity, low self-worth, embarrassment and shame eventually replaced with new perspective, confidence and purpose.  

This transformation comes largely from learning from others who have gone through her similar journey and were willing to be vulnerable in sharing. 

Literally and perhaps ironically, it was the blind leading the blind, that eventually allowed Mary to see.

The moral of this story, I suppose, is the need for us to all share our blindspots – and to not be met with shame, embarrassment or worst denial. Rather to do it with the idea that it will be the only way we can all see our way out of the challenges that face us.


See all posts from Moving Up Mondays blog

Monday Morning Notes

Delivered to your mailbox each Monday morning, these short notes offer an opportunity each week to reflect on who and what contributes to where we end up in life. Readers tell us it’s a great way to start their week on a positive note. See the latest note below:

Blind

We knew this moment would come.  

Throughout the pandemic, our family has been watching Little House on the Prairie.  It has in many ways been a cathartic experience, watching the Ingalls family with all of its struggles persevere through no shortage of difficult times.

While the book has been subject to recent criticisms, the television series from my youth has held up remarkably well – tackling issues of poverty, race, Native American relations with nuance and compassion largely unseen today. There was even a prescient episode where a virus rips through Walnut Grove. It is only through their solidarity and sacrifice that they are able to survive. 

This is a recurring theme throughout the show. While each of the characters display grit and hard work, the role of community in overcoming adversity is central. The term social capital wasn’t en vogue then but it is hard to argue that all in Walnut Grove was rich with it.

For all the trials and tribulations the Ingalls family faced, one loomed larger than most. Our children had read the books, my wife and I had watched the series, and yet we all still dreaded the eventual episode where Mary Ingalls, the oldest and perhaps purest of the children, would lose her sight and go blind.

So there it was last week, the two-part episode titled:  “I’ll be waving as you drive away” popped up in our queue and we watched it as a family.

As the joke goes, there was a lot of pollen in the air in our living room, as dry eyes were hard to find. The scene when Pa has to tell his daughter she is going blind will move you to tears as you contemplate ever having to deliver that kind of news to a loved one. The scene when Mary wakes up to discover that she has gone completely blind will rip your heart out.

Screaming for her father to come, she is frightened by the darkness that will be her new reality. Calling on him to hold her tighter and tighter, she is devastated by what is lost and will never be found again.

In reflecting on this episode, I began to think of my own proverbial blindness. My fear in accepting those things I’ve lost and will never regain or confronting the darkness in my character that manifests in certain biases that I prefer to dismiss rather than see.

We are all blind in our own way. Unwilling to see those things about ourselves, our family, our society that we don’t like. Afraid, like Mary, to accept this reality – to confront our darkness.

The second part of this episode shows Mary finally coming to terms with her situation. The self-pity, low self-worth, embarrassment and shame eventually replaced with new perspective, confidence and purpose.  

This transformation comes largely from learning from others who have gone through her similar journey and were willing to be vulnerable in sharing. 

Literally and perhaps ironically, it was the blind leading the blind, that eventually allowed Mary to see.

The moral of this story, I suppose, is the need for us to all share our blindspots – and to not be met with shame, embarrassment or worst denial. Rather to do it with the idea that it will be the only way we can all see our way out of the challenges that face us.

Attribution with Bob McKinnon

Attribution is a podcast, where people from all walks of life, reflect on who and what has contributed to where they ended up. Our hope is after each episode, you feel a little more inspired, grateful, or supported, then when you first hit play. Check out the latest episode below:

Episode 11: Luck or Skill? w/ Maria Konnikova

Maria Konnikova is a New York Times best-selling author, journalist, and professional poker player. Her latest book, The Biggest Bluff, is now out in paperback. It was a fun and fascinating conversation exploring the balance of skill and chance in life. Among the many stories shared was how a chance encounter with a single line in a story she wrote led to my own forthcoming children’s book, Three Little Engines.


Links to learn more about: Maria Konnikova, The Biggest Bluff, America’s Surprising Views of Inequality, Shai Davidai, Three Little Engines, Walter Mischel