It’s the feather of a bird! It’s the ticket for a train! It’s… a children’s book printed entirely from found material!

The chug, chug, chug, puff, puff, puff, ding-dong, ding-dong of the train didn't come to the city that day. It didn't come the next day either....

We all root for the little engine in the American classic, The Little Engine That Could, when she suddenly breaks down and panics in worry: “What are all those good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain going to do without the jolly toys to play with and the wholesome food to eat?” Indeed she is a lovable little engine carrying precious cargo, but in the 21st century the time has come to reexamine her concerns as we face a global environmental crisis of fossil fuel overuse and waste overproduction. Do the children on the other side of the mountain really need her to provide all of their food and toys? In our modern twist, When The Little Engine Couldn’t, we imagine what would have happened if the train didn't make it over that mountain to bring toys and food to those good boys and girls on the other side. In our tale, the children soon realize that there is food growing all around and that a ‘toy’ can be something much more outside-of-the-box than they previously thought. In fact, it can be the box itself...

As the children in our story embark on their adventure, the unique illustrations of When The Little Engine Couldn’t invite readers to dive directly into the book’s underlying message. The children themselves are cut and collaged out of magazines, and the world they live in has been printed through the collagraph printmaking method from found material. Buildings are printed from bus tickets and business cards, the grocery store from a crushed soda can and bread-bag ties, the toy store from puzzle pieces and a toy tag, and the park from real grass and dirt. With an Answer Key in the back of the book for what material was used for each page, our book becomes an interactive ‘I-Spy the texture of found material!’ game for adults and children to enjoy together.

When The Little Engine Couldn’t is a children’s book designed to foster age appropriate conversations between adults and children (ages 3-7) about how the food and objects we consume and use were grown and made, how they travel to us, how they will be taken care of once we finish with them, and how we can imagine and build an alternative reality through hands-on action. We hope that readers will be inspired to get creative with ‘trash’ and to spend more time together outside gardening and playing! We know we can! We know we can!

Our story:

After her brother, Ilan, approached her with the initial book concept in 2014, Carmiella’s imagination was sparked to conceptualize how she could utilize her bourgeoning expertise in collagraph printmaking to create the visual world of the story. Carmiella then brought on her dear college friend, the incredibly talented illustrator and animator, Katie Olson, to help design the page layouts and to create the characters. The three organized a successful kickstarter campaign through which they were discovered by the publisher, Mascot Books. And voila! When The Little Engine Couldn’t was published by Mascot Books in April, 2017.

Check out our 2016 Kickstarter Campaign here:


For purchase, please visit the following links: 


Mascot Books

Barnes and Noble



Or Visit:

The Bookies Bookstore   4315 E. Mississippi Ave.  Denver, CO 80246

32nd Avenue Books, Toys and Gifts   3633 W. 32nd Ave.  Denver, CO 80211

Barnes and Noble Book Store   960 S Colorado Blvd.  Glendale, CO 80246

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