Locomotive

Brian Floca, Author, Brian Floca, Illustrator
Brian Floca. S&S/Atheneum/Jackson, $17.99 (64p) ISBN 978-1-4169-9415-2
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-62923-925-5
Hardcover - 64 pages - 978-986-189-537-6
Open Ebook - 64 pages - 978-1-4424-8522-8
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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.)
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