Brian Floca’s Locomotive is a wonderful book for children and a great teaching tool for homeschoolers. Recommended for children ages four to ten, it combines history, geography and science. The illustrations are among the best I’ve seen in a children’s book. And, unlike many children’s books, this one will appeal to boys as well as girls.
Let’s begin with the front endpapers which give a brief history of the transcontinental railroad complete with a map of the route. Why was the railroad so important? Before the railroad, the journey from east to west could take as long as six months, we are told. In 1862 Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act; on May 15, 1869 service began.
In the text of the book, Mr. Floca describes how the rails were built; what a journey across the country from the midwest to the far west was like; who was on the crew and what each member did; what the country outside was like; what happened when the train got to the foot of the Rockies and dozens more intriguing facts. I was particularly interesting to note that the highest point on the line was Sherman, WY, only 19 miles from where I live in Laramie.
End notes provide further history of the locomotive and the author’s sources.
The back endpapers demonstrate how steam power is made and how it is used to power the locomotive. There is an illustration of the locomotive’s engine with each part and instrument labelled.
Locomotive is a Caldecott Medal winner and it is well deserved.