Review: Locomotive by Brian Floca


Locomotive by Brian Floca

This book thoroughly celebrates the days of steam trains when rails were just starting to bridge the nation.  It begins with the building of the railroad, coming from east and west and meeting in the middle.  Filled with the sounds of building and the sounds of trains, this book fairly sings with the noises of the railroad.  Your trip starts on a quiet platform waiting for a train.  Once aboard, readers learn about the way steam powers the engine and the jobs of different people aboard.  Readers ride aboard the train, visit the bathroom which is basically a hole in the floor, and sleep along the way.  On the way west, you can see the landscape change, cross fragile bridges and enter black tunnels.  This entire book is a stirring testament to steam engines and the people who worked them.

Floca offers so many details here.  One might think that would slow the book down, but it is really all about those details and the entire experience of travel by steam train.  He keeps the interest level high by being very selective of the facts he shares.  It makes the reading fascinating and even young train buffs should learn a thing or two. 

Floca’s illustrations are beautiful.  He lingers over details in his images as well as in the text.  Readers get to see mechanisms close up, feel the speed of the train as it moves forward, and see the light reflecting off of the tight tunnel walls.  He creates an experience here that speaks to the time period clearly with his choice of fonts and the design of the entire book.  His illustrations are sometimes front and center, other times serving more as diagrams of interesting facts. 

Gorgeous illustrations, fascinating facts and a clear love of the subject make this a riveting read whether you are a train buff or not.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

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