by Brian Floca

Other authorsBrian Floca (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2013



Local notes

E Flo




Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books (2013), Edition: First Edition, 64 pages


It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and families are traveling together, riding America's brand new transcontinental railroad. The pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean. 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!


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

64 p.; 10.5 inches

Media reviews

I purchased this book from BarnesandNoble.com If you haven't checked out this year's Caldecott Award Winner, then you absolutely must! Along with my newfound appreciation for Children's Literature, I decided to purchase this book as a deal I had through my B&N membership. I had so much fun
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reading it and enjoying the illustrations, whilst being introduced to the writings and artwork of Brian Floca. You will not be disappointed! Locomotive journeys through a family's travelings from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California in 1869 as a result of Abraham Lincoln's involvement in the Pacific Railway Act. This act connects the east to the west by railroad, and the project was completed 5 years ahead of schedule. Through the reading and illustrations, Floca transports us across the US and provides the reader a learning experience along the way. There's just enough history and detailed illustration for older children to observe, while younger children can chug along with the rhythm of free-verse and onomatopoeia. Floca also provides a curriculum guide to use Locomotive as a tool for educational purposes. He shows how to develop a sense of integration between text and illustration to build knowledge for students and children. Resources can be found in the sleeves and inside covers to establish foundational learning and maximize comprehension. Floca has taken the time and effort to provide readers and educators multiple options for retention. Honestly, I am very impressed with Brian Floca's ability to balance text and illustration. Most authors I come across who attempt to wear both hats of "Illustrator" and "Wordsmith" tend to lack in one of the areas. Not in this case. Not only does Floca succeed in accomplishing both, rightfully being accompanied by the Caldecott Award, but he also goes above and beyond to ensure that it is a true learning experience complete with vehemently researched facts. He purposefully changes font, size, and color to keep the reader interested and retain a mental image of the information. In my opinion, Floca's artwork is beautiful. Just an interesting little tidbit, it took him 4 years to produce Locomotive. Although, in his own opinion, watercolor isn't his forte nor his first choice, he's produced amazing work worthy of reward.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member lquilter
Really impressive. Beautiful, creative, poetic, and mostly pretty awesome.

Maybe, my one critique would be the perspective. It's in there, but it's subtle; so there's a lot of shifting between the "you and your experience" vibe and the historical reality. I think maybe a stronger sense of
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perspective, and/or one that somehow shifted perspectives so that gender and race signifiers -- which were subtle -- could have permitted identification with multiple characters. For instance, the discussion of the Native peoples who lived in places, and the people who built the trains, were really minimal -- almost place-holders. ... And the millions of buffalo described as previously inhabiting the plains, I think, at this historic point (1869) they were probably still there. So then is the perspective really 20th century America? Clearly not.

Anyway, this was an awesome and amazing work of art and historicity and poetry, and while I might have liked it to be different in some particulars, I still loved reading it and discussing it with my 5yo, and it drew in my partner who noted that she had learned more about trains listening to this one book than she ever had before.

So, highly recommended! Train lover or not.
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LibraryThing member josephumana
Locomotive turns the clock back to when children had nothing to do but be absorbed into the trip of a long journey by looking out their window and force to endure and enjoy all the little things that makes long trip memorable. Sometimes it got noisy and sometimes kind a boring but this book does a
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good job at explaining the era and providing information about how the train work, what it took for people to be able to enjoy such a luxury. Learning about history is always beneficial because it is something children can go back to when thinking about the future to know where we have been so they can think about where they are going.
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LibraryThing member biarias
I loved this book because it was a historical account without all the detailed history that tends to intimidate learners. I loved the structure of the text; it was almost like a poem, especially when bold and colorful fonts were interjected. The illustrations were lovely, and to my best knowledge
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fantastic depictions of the time period. What really sold this book for me though as the literal journey across the United States, as famous landmarks and scenic views were included and labeled on almost every page. Additionally, I liked the text at the end (for adults) that included a more detailed history; I think it would be very useful for teachers.
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LibraryThing member Megs_Scrambled
A history of trains and railway travel, this book will interest any young train fan. Beautifully illustrated images reveal the history of the locomotive, from building the railway to operating details of trains. The story follows a family in the late 1800s as they journey across the US by train.
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This book has varied level of storytelling, with illustrations for younger children and heavy text for older kids to read alone. I liked how some of the text was in varied sizes punctuating specific words or sounds so kids who are too young to sit through the heavy text can still understand the story.
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LibraryThing member jordan70
The intense perspective make you feel like you are going on a trip.This is more like an art book.I love how the text seems to interact with the pictures, placed in odd places and sometimes imposing. A great historical study rienforcer for the classroom.
LibraryThing member astares
Floca's illustration and writings on trains is purely fascinating and highly detailed. The book starts off with maps and history allowing the reader to dive into the world of trains. Not only does this book illustrate beautifully on how they were made, who was needed to work on them, where they
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went, but it also showcases the era that locomotives were in and allows the reader to relate and learn about it. This book would be great to have out for readers to read independently, or to read aloud. This book could also be used for research papers for 4th and 5th graders, yet it also is interesting enough for younger students to want to read in a group or aloud with the whole class.
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LibraryThing member BrandiMichelle
This book brings to life the hay day of the transcontinental railroad. It is informative and entertaining. The illustrations highlight important parts of the steam engine, as well as give a sense of history through time specific clothing and settings.
LibraryThing member ameliagilbertson
A beautful visual history of the locomotive in the United States with lovely, lyrical writing that complements the images. The journey in the book containst stunning landscapes as well as interesting historical depictions of an era long gone.
LibraryThing member laurlou
This is an informational book that shares the creation and history of the locomotive. the journey starts in east and ends in the west.
LibraryThing member kfh2
Locomotive is a visual history of the railroad that brought America together. It includes easy to read diagrams, stunning illustrations and a text that seems as if it has been written in verse.
LibraryThing member gfurth
The story is told in a poetic way but packed with factual bits about the names of train parts and people and enriched with historical accuracy of the time the story is placed.
LibraryThing member armyflyingguy
Tags: Caldecott, Trains, Steam

Summary: Amazing book for the child or adult with a train passion! A true book that explains how families used to be so close, help each other out, and care for one another. The illustrations of the trains, the family, journey, and attention to detail is beyond
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Personal Reaction: I'm a huge train fan. We take our kiddos to the OKC train depot while they but on 'A Day with Thomas the Train'. I was a huge fan of trains as a child and still very much show am. I help the kids set up the track and play with all the train's, car's and then switch the tracks up to make it really interesting.

Extension Ideas: Bring in a train set for the kids can build and see what trains really are all about. Teach them trains are not always to play and see who, what, when, where, and why trains are such an important part of daily living. Explain how in the old days this was the one and only way of travel and means of surviving.
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LibraryThing member alexis.smith
This story takes us a step back in history on a trip across America on a train. Each page gives us details that add to the beautiful illustrations. Floca explains how each component of the train works and how you would feel if you were actually riding on it. He even finds a way to include
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details into the sounds of the train. At the end of the train ride, the train arrives safely at the train station where a welcome family awaits.
Personal Reaction:
I absolutely loved this book. Each page drew me deeper and deeper into the story of the train ride. I have never actually had the opportunity to ride on a train, but the details this story has makes me feel as if I had been riding on the train myself.
Extension Ideas:
1. Have children draw their own train that could travel across the country.
2. Describe the sounds you hear on your way to school, either on the bus or in a car.
3. Act out different jobs people on the train might have (conductor, shoveling coal, checking water, etc.)
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LibraryThing member nbmars
This book has racked up many awards for this author, who is also the illustrator, including the 2014 Caldecott medal, “given to the artist who had created the most distinguished picture book of the year.”

The story takes us on an imaginary train journey as it would have transpired for travelers
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from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California in the summer of 1869, shortly after the completion of the first transcontinental railroad line. The train has to stop every 150 or 200 miles to get a new locomotive and crew, and the passengers must change trains once, at the junction between the Union Pacific line and the Central Pacific line.

We experience the sounds and sights of the journey, and learn about how the passengers passed the time, ate, kept warm, and even how they went to the bathroom! [Quick answer: not much differently than they still do in much of Europe, but that’s another story….]

We learn how the train operates, and how the rail paths were chosen. We get a sense of the exciting traversal of the high, rickety bridge or through a dark mountain tunnel. Finally the train arrives safely, where a welcoming family is waiting at the end of the line.

The double-page action-filled spreads are rendered in ink, watercolor and gouache paintings that provide glimpses of all aspects of the story, including the spectacular topography of the still largely unsettled West. (Gouache paint is similar to watercolor but modified to make it opaque.)

Discussion: The author did a large amount of research for this book, the sources for which are delineated in an Afterward. I think I learned more than I ever have from a children’s picture book! The endpapers show a diagram explaining how steam power works, and a map and timeline. (I used the map to help me google some of the landscape wonders passed by the travelers that Floca depicts, for example, the Devil’s Slide rock formation in Utah and Castle Rock by the Green River in Wyoming.)

Evaluation: This very impressive book will please both younger and older readers, albeit no doubt in different ways. Youngsters will appreciate the onomatopoetic descriptors that appear in larger font alongside the pictures, and older kids (and adults) will love the explanations in smaller text that provides details of “The iron horse, the great machine!” operated in earlier times.
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LibraryThing member barbarapatt
A mother and two children take a cross-country trip on the newly-finished transcontinental railroad. The adventure explores the workings of the locomotive, travel across America and the sights and sounds passengers experienced.

I wanted to see what a verse novel was and whether I could appreciate
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the genre. I found this book fun to read with lots of sights and sounds. It was also very informative as far as where the railroad went and what life was like traveling in those days.

If a field trip is in order, a trip to the Oklahoma Science Museum to visit the train exhibit might be fun. In class, it would be fun to study how the steam locomotive worked and maybe even boil some water and talk about the power that can come from steam pressure.
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LibraryThing member BethanyKisner
Summary: Locomotive tells the story of a family who is traveling cross country to a new home. More importantly, Locomotive tells the story of the railroad. It takes you on a journey across the country and tells you how the train works and who operates it.

Personal Reflection: I remember when my
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mother took us on a train ride to Van Buran, AK. It was so exciting but at the same time so mysteries. This massive machinery was carrying me from place to place. The conductor made our trip enjoyable but also orderly. I think that my son would love to ride on a train.

Extension Projects:
1. Set up a train set and let the children make the noises that the train would make.
2. Get toilet paper rolls and provide a table with different craft supplies and allow the children to make their own train.
3. Have the children pick one job that is described in the book and have them do further research, also let them dress like what they think specific person wore on the job.
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LibraryThing member Abdullah9000
A story about a train crossing the US in the 1870s.
LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
Locomotive, a Caldecott-winning picture book written and illustrated by Brian Floca, is a beautiful product. Slightly oversized, the book contains detailed paintings of historical trains and the places they passed through from Nebraska to California. The muted colors fit well with conveying the
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idea of times past, but there are also illustrations that convey the speed and joy of the journey. Fanciful lettering allows certain words to jump from the page, looking beautiful while engaging the reader's attention.

The story itself is both slight and meaty. It is slight in that the characters are not named or given much by way of a story. All you know is that they are travelling from one place to another in the coach class of a steam locomotive during the summer of 1869, right after the first transcontinental railroad was built. But then the text is also meaty in terms of providing historical details and lots of information on how the railway was built and how the train itself runs. We see how the train stops at various places and switches engines, and the mechanics that must be in place for the train to continue to run along to its destination without any problems. This is a little bit where the book loses it for me. While I appreciate all the fun historical tidbits, I wasn't necessarily enamored of learning all about the pistons, rods, boilers, etc. that make the steam train successfully run. I admit that I found these parts a little bit dull. However, that being said, I think for children (and adults) who are big train aficionados, this book is sure to be a hit precisely because it does contain all those details. The book ends with a lengthy note describing even more details about steam locomotives during this time frame.

Locomotive is billed as a book for ages 4 to 10, probably based on it being a picture book. However, I think it unlikely that you'd find many 4-year-olds with the attention span needed for the level of detail and sheer length of this book. This book seems best suited for children ages 7 to 10, those who might think that are getting too old for picture books -- but who will be pleasantly surprised by how much they will learn from and enjoy this book.
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LibraryThing member lrubin75
The should be read to older children, perhaps fifth graders studying US History, and westward expansion, the gold rush, mid-1800s, post-civil war America (Themes). Also literary element of onomatopoeia, discussed in language arts units.
LibraryThing member bookwormJilly
Locomotive is a Caldecott winner, Silbert honor book and Orbis honor book. The book has a lot of sounds that a train makes. It even has a rhythm to the reading that sounds like a train. There is information on how a locomotive worked and information about a family traveling west.
LibraryThing member kzilinskas
Beautifully done book. Amazing pictures and maps on each page. Railroad book dates back to when Abe Lincoln was a president. Gives history behind railroads and changes happening. Creates a menu for a day in the life of a person at the time. Native American history is provided. * Good for multiple
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read alouds *
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LibraryThing member schendo
The 2013 Caldecott Medal Book is large and beautiful. The text of the book changes as the page progresses with large print, red print, newspaper print, and on and on. It is easy to tell how much love went into the making of this book. The ways which people traveled in the United States has vastly
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changed over time and this book looks specifically at train travel. The book is incredibly thorough and beautiful. Some pages are simple without very much text. Other pages are filled with words, telling of the mystical ways that trains cross the country, and how they turn around and go back the way they came. This book is perhaps the best way to learn about locomotives.
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LibraryThing member nphernetton
This book is about the transcontinental railroads, and what went into building it. It shows all of the great things that came out of this new form of transportation. It's full of great information, and is presented in a wonderful and fun way. This book is best for kids age 8-12.
LibraryThing member LoganBerglund
Locomotive is a book covering the wild west of the 1800's following the building of the Transcontinental railroad. It expands on the ideas of all the new opportunities opened by this new transportation that stretched across America all the way to California. This book would be extremely beneficial
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as a history lesson, which provides detailed information at a level that students can understand. Anywhere from fourth through sixth grade could find Locomotive integrated into a social studies lesson.
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LibraryThing member jh33
This historical book that follows the trains and places the first railroads passed through to the west coast, from Nebraska to California is beautifully done. Younger readers, below 6 years will enjoy the pictures while older readers will enjoy the history of the railroad system.




(180 ratings; 4.3)
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