Friday, January 31, 2014

PPBF: Locomotive

Author/Illustrator: Brian Floca
Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers/2013
Genre/Audience“historical-fiction-meets-travelogue narrative” (genre description from The Horn Book Magazine, starred review)/Ages 4-10
Themes: American history, railroads, steam trains

Opening: "Here is a road made for crossing the country, a new road of rails made for people to ride."

Synopsis: (from book jacket)

Here are the locomotives, the iron horses, the great machines, pulling their trains behind them.

Here are the crews that make them run, and here is how they do it.

And here is a family, heading West, hoping to start a new life.

It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding America's first transcontinental railroad, still new, just built.

In these pages, dense with the details of their trip, are the sounds, speed, and strength of the locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; the thrill of travel from plains to mountinas to oceans.

Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country! ALL ABOARD!

Why I Love This Book
This is a history lesson, disguised as a story, rich with pour-over illustrations that stop the show. Not to mention that it just won the Caldecott Medal! The text is lyrical and describes all the details of a transcontinental train ride: the exciting, the dangerous, and the hygienic. Who knew it was "rude to use the toilet when the train is sitting at the station."? Check out this gem which will appeal to young and mature train enthusiasts, history buffs, art lovers, and coffee table book collectors.

Brian Floca's website

Curriculum Guide

Online train simulator

Tourist train destination guide (U.S. rails)

Craving more Perfect Picture Books? Author Susanna Leonard Hill compiles weekly book reviews from bloggers at Visit Fridays or click the Perfect Picture Books tab at her website for a subject listing.


  1. This is one fabulous book! Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a marvelous book---I have to find this for my grandsons!. We live near a railroad track and in nice weather they want to run see the train when it goes by. I also tried the train simulator (so cool!), I didn't do very well I overshot the station.

  3. One of my favorite books of the year. I hope our pregnant granddaughter has a grandson, because there are a bunch of books I want to save for her. This is one of them. I think I would have liked it because I loved playing with a train set and loved riding on trains.

  4. Laura...this is a really beautiful book...I love all the activities/resources you listed...I've had this book out from the library before...I think it is time to get it again. Great review!

  5. I just read this book to a class of first-graders this week. Love, love, love Floca.

  6. I still haven't been able to get this one at the library. I need to check my spot on the list.

  7. IS this at our library in Leesburg or the County wide one? I have dreadful luck finding Friday's list at ours. I'll look for this. I sent this post to my brother who is a train enthusiast. Thanks so much for sharing this book. Can't wait to read it. :)

  8. Fabulous (and timely!) choice, Laura! Oh how I wish this book had been out when my son and nephew were little - they would have loved it! Actually, they might still love it :) Thanks so much for adding this terrific title to our list!