Thursday, September 12, 2013


by Brian Floca
Atheneum, 2013.  Unpaged.  Picture Book

     Brian Floca is already one of the greatest living illustrator's of children's books, but he has outdone even himself in this new historical picture book about the transcontinental railroad. Floca conveys a boatload (or should I say "coal car") of factual information about the railroad on the end papers, and in an appendix at the end of the book. He conveys an entirely different sort of information in the text and pictures in the book itself. Different fonts and type sizes accurately recreate the sounds and motion of a steam locomotive. The landscape, particularly through the Utah territory (Devil's Slide, in Weber Canyon; Pulpit Rock in Echo Canyon), is striking and evocative, especially the night scenes. Floca skillfully combines art and science to recreate the Romance of the Rails. He draws and labels the physical components of the locomotive, shows what might happen if the boiler runs out of water (KA-BOOM!), or the train takes a curve too swiftly, or starts up too rapidly. What a great book for kids who like trains, American history, the West, or all of them rolled together into a glorious whole.

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