I am won over, proved wrong, and in awe. Brian Floca has written a book that will appeal not only to the youngest of train fans, but also to history buffs, both young and old.
The history of the railroad is framed around a journey a woman and two children take, going west on the train. As they travel, information about the building of the railroad, the various people who worked on the railroads and trains and the mechanical operation of the train itself are all woven into the journey.
The book is written in flowing free verse, separated into chunks of text. The text is further separated by the watercolors sprinkled throughout the book, scenes of railroad stops, gazelles racing the trains, explosions, and the wild landscape that the train races through. You can pick and choose sections to read aloud to the youngest children, while they ooh and aah over the train-filled landscapes or read the book at one sitting with an older listener, especially one who can sit still for a long time. Independent readers will want to pore over the text and illustrations themselves, especially the history-rich endpapers, with information closely packed together. The book ends with a lengthy author's note and extensive sources.
Verdict: This is a beautifully illustrated and accessible story of the building and growth of the railroad. It will be appreciated by both children and adults and find a wide audience. Highly recommended.
ISBN: 9781416994152; Published 2013 by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library