Brian Floca follows up his success with Lightship and Moonshot (both Sibert Honor Books), with another award-winning nonfiction picture book, this one on trains. Winner of the 2014 Caldecott Medal and a 2014 Sibert Honor Book, Locomotive follows one family as they travel from Omaha, Nebraska to San Francisco, California in 1869.
The beginning pages of Locomotive focus on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Then a family waits to board the train in Omaha. Next, the train’s crew and some of their equipment are introduced. Now the family’s journey begins, crossing the Platte River Valley, continuing through the day and night. The train bypasses Sherman, Wyoming, over Dale Creek Bridge past Castle Rock. Finally it arrives at the Promontory Summit (Utah Territory) where passengers will change trains for the remainder of the journey through the mountains to California.
On the endpapers, Floca displays railroad timetables from 1869 and describes the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s. The book’s illustrations are in ink, watercolor, acrylic, and gouache on weathered yellow pages. The text is simple: “Here is a road made for crossing the country, a new road of rails made for people to ride” (pg.1). Set in various font sizes and styles to emphasize the sounds (“clang-clang” in small font, then larger fonts as the train gets closer), the book has full-page spreads as well as smaller vignettes.
Locomotive includes an author’s note on the history of the locomotive and a thorough discussion of the sources, as well as a detailed diagram explaining how steam power works. Although geared for readers ages 4-10, it will be a welcome addition to libraries with older readers interested in railroads.
Carol R. Gehringer
—reprinted with permission, Christian Library Journal, 2014.