Reviews for Locomotive

by Brian Floca

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

In 1869, not long after the golden spike is driven into the rails at Promontory Summit, a mother and her two children climb aboard the Transcontinental Railroad, leaving behind their old life in Omaha for a new one in California, where Papa awaits. Floca (Moonshot) chronicles their journey from multiple perspectives: documentarian, poet, historian, tour guide, and irrepressible railroad geek. With the rhythmic, verselike text that's become his signature; expressive typography; and handsome, detailed watercolor, ink, and gouache paintings, he celebrates the majestic (the passing western landscape), the marvelous (the engineering and sheer manpower required to keep the engine safely on its course), and the mundane, from the primitiveness of the toilets to the iffiness of depot food ("If the chicken/ tastes like prairie dog,/ don't ask why"). It's a magisterial work (even the endpapers command close reading), but always approachable in its artistry and erudition. And readers will come away understanding that the railroad wasn't just about getting a group of passengers from Point A to Point B; it carried an entire nation into a new, more rapid world: "Faster, faster, turn the wheels,/ faster, faster breathes the engine!/ The country runs by, the cottonwoods and river./ Westward, westward,/ runs the train,/ through the prairies,/ to the Great Plains,/ on to the frontier." Ages 4-10. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 3-5-It all started with "a new road of rails/made for people to ride" where "covered wagons used to crawl." Almost 150 years ago-just after the Civil War-the completion of the transcontinental railway radically changed both this country's landscape and the opportunities of its people. The book traces the advent of cross-country train travel, focusing on an early trip from Omaha to Sacramento. As in Moonshot (2009) and Lightship (2007, both S & S), Floca proves himself masterful with words, art, and ideas. The book's large format offers space for a robust story in a hefty package of information. Set in well-paced blank verse, the text begins with a quick sketch of "how this road was built" and moves abruptly to the passengers on the platform and the approaching train. The author smoothly integrates descriptions of the structure and mechanics of the locomotive, tasks of crew members, passing landscapes, and experiences of passengers. Simply sketched people and backgrounds, striking views of the locomotive, and broad scenes of unpopulated terrain are framed in small vignettes or sweep across the page. Though a bit technical in explaining engine parts, the travelogue scheme will read aloud nicely and also offers absorbing details for leisurely personal reading. Substantial introductory and concluding sections serve older readers. There's also a detailed explanation of the author's efforts and sources in exploring his subject. Train buffs and history fans of many ages will find much to savor in this gorgeously rendered and intelligent effort.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Floca follows up the acclaimed Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (2009) with this ebullient, breathtaking look at a family's 1869 journey from Omaha to Sacramento via the newly completed Transcontinental Railroad. The unnamed family is a launching point for Floca's irrepressible exploration into, well, everything about early rail travel, from crew responsibilities and machinery specifics to the sensory thrills of a bridge rumbling beneath and the wind blasting into your face. The substantial text is delivered in nonrhyming stanzas as enlightening as they are poetic: the smoke and cinders, / ash and sweat of the coal engine and the Great Plains stretching out empty as an ocean. Blasting through these artful compositions are the bellows of the conductor ( FULL STEAM AHEAD ) and the scream of the train whistle, so loud that it bleeds off the page: WHOOOOOOO! Font styles swap restlessly to best embody each noise (see the blunt, bold SPIT versus the ornate, ballooning HUFF HUFF HUFF ). Just as heart pounding are Floca's bold, detailed watercolors, which swap massive close-ups of barreling locomotives with sweeping bird's-eye views that show how even these metal giants were dwarfed by nature. It's impossible to turn a page without learning something, but it's these multiple wow moments that will knock readers from their chairs. Fantastic opening and closing notes make this the book for young train enthusiasts.--Kraus, Daniel Copyright 2010 Booklist