Children’s Books

Picture books allow us to see the world through the eyes of a child. They subtly teach children – or in the case of grown ups remind us of – simple but critical life lessons. All of this accomplished with just a few hundred words and a handful of stunning images.

Bob’s journey into children’s publishing began with a stroke of luck. A New Yorker article shared with him, “America’s Surprising Views on Inequality“, was the inspiration for writing his first book, Three Little Engines – a more modern and nuanced take on the classic The Little Engine That Could. After cold calls, emails and months of waiting, Bob scored a meeting with Penguin Random House, who owned the rights to the original and coincidentally was looking for a new way to tell that story to mark the book’s 90th anniversary.

After many twists and turns Three Little Engines was published in 2021 and became a New York Times bestseller.  It’s now available in three languages. 

The success of Three Little Engines resulted in a deal with Penguin to write two more books. The next of which, America’s Dreaming, comes out on June 4th, 2024. Bob’s journey as a successful children’s author is marked by good fortune, great timing, and the support and inspiration from so many others.

To learn more about his journey, watch the piece on CBS Sunday Morning below or hear directly from Bob himself.  Bob loves to visit schools, libraries and communities across the country to share his remarkable experience and the lessons behind his books.  Just contact Allyson Hickey at Booked ( if interested.  You can also scroll down to learn more about each of his books.

See "The life lessons of Three Little Engines" featured on CBS Sunday Morning

America's Dreaming

In AMERICA’S DREAMING, the narrator, America, is so excited to start school! They look forward to new friends and going on fun adventures. But their first day at a new school turns out to be the complete opposite. No one is friendly and it’s incredibly lonely. Noticing America all alone, their new teacher brings them over to the Welcome Wagon—a cart filled with inspiring books on real-life historical figures who persevered. America reads the stories and later dreams of Amelia Earhart, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King Jr., and Emma Lazarus as they come alive to share their stories with little America. America returns to school the next day with the confidence to make friends. 

McKinnon’s engaging storytelling and Phuong’s dreamy illustrations in AMERICA’S DREAMING puts readers in the narrator’s unique perspective to connect with their experiences. In fact, the reader never sees America at all—illustrating how they could be any child aching to belong.  While Bob’s personal experience was the inspiration for AMERICA’S DREAMING, it is one that is all too common. Every year, approximately five million children will enter a new school in the US. There are long-term implications when a child does not feel welcomed in school. It has been correlated with increased depression, mental health issues, and dropout rates,” 

AMERICA’S DREAMING is not only a mirror and a window for children, but a love letter to teachers, and a reminder of our nation’s history – one that is rooted in the idea that we are stronger when we welcome others with open arms and hearts.

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.

Las Tres Pequenas Locomotoras

Una versión moderna, espléndidamente ilustrada, del clásico La pequeña locomotora que sí pudo, presenta el oportuno mensaje de que el recorrido de cada uno es diferente, y que, a veces, el éxito proviene de la ayuda de una mano amiga.


本书通过三辆小火车头努力完成挑战的故事,让每个在遇到困难时想要放弃的孩子学会自我鼓励。 毕业日终于到了!蓝色的小火车、黄色的小火车和红色的小火车兴奋地参加了他们在火车学校的最后一次测试。蓝色小火车头第一个冲到了终点,可是他发现两个好伙伴很久都没有到达,在老火车头的引导下,他意识到每辆火车头的旅程都各不相同,大家在行驶过程中都遇到不同的挑战和障碍。蓝色小火车头决定和老火车头一起返回,帮助受困的两位伙伴们。他们最终能解救同伴,并一起成功完成挑战吗?