After his paeans to the sea (Lightship) and space travel (Moonshot), Brian Floca here pays soaring tribute to the iron horse that rides the rails at the dawning of the Transcontinental Railroad.
The author-artist connects past to present with the universal experience of a boy and girl who wait on the platform with their mother. As the train moves closer, the images and typeface grow in size and clarity ("CLANG-CLANG-CLANG"; "Whoo-oooo"). Floca toggles between the macro view (with maps and labels of cutaway train images), and close-up views (e.g., the train rolling out of the station), and demonstrates the impact of the train on the larger culture as well as individual travelers. For instance, he lays out the paradox introduced by train travel with a serene view of the Great Plains and nary a sign of civilization ("smell the switchgrass and the bluestem, hot beneath the sun"). As the family travels along the tracks, Floca offers tantalizing details: toilets drain onto the tracks; a boy sells newspapers, food and soap is a "butch." At the end of the journey, the children's father waits with open arms.
Readers will want to board this locomotive again and again. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness