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The Trainbow: 09/16/22
The Trainbow by Nina Laden is an accordion style picture book that combines two childhood favorites: trains and rainbows. There's a colorful train coming your way. Each car is a different color of the rainbow.
The book reminds me most in its execution to What Makes a Rainbow? by Betty Schwartz and Dona Turner (Illustrator) (2000). Schwartz's book uses a series of colored ribbons to build the rainbow through the process of reading the book. Laden's book is literally the rainbow, except in train form.
My inner pedant child, though, twitches at the fact that the last color, and therefore, the last car on the train, is red. The last train on a steam train (which the Trainbow is) is the caboose. Every caboose I've ever seen in person has either been red or yellow. The red ones were the older ones, and the yellow ones were used by Union Pacific on their diesel freight trains.
The color wheel is a human invention that works on how the typical human brain interpolates colors (assuming no color blindness). The color wheel can go either direction and start at any color, though typically it's either purple (violet) or red.
But a rainbow is a naturally occurring event when water droplets act as prisms to display the visible color spectrum. Because of wavelengths, the violet color is always at the bottom (or inner ring) of the rainbow and red is always at the top (or outer ring). So if the trainbow is describing in train form, the rainbow, it does make sense to start with red. Since steam trains are typically shown pulling their cars (though trains can push them and diesel trains often do), the engine would therefore be red.
In trying to reconcile the order of colors and the order of train cars in my head, I did a Google image search for purple cabooses. The first bunch were clearly color-altered photos. But later on there were some examples of genuinely purple cabooses. They are rarer than the two colors I grew up seeing but they did exist.