Floca, B. (2013). Locomotive. An imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing.
Caldecott Medal Award: Children’s Picture Book
Children’s Picture Book for Ages 4 and up.
Before Reading Locomotive it is immediately known what the story is about, trains. It is a given due to its title, the cover page of the train on the front, and the maps in the pages before the cover page. The pre-cover pages dive into the rich history of the United States. There is a small section on the transcontinental railroad, the union pacific railroad, and a map of the Pacific Railroad of 1869. Floca discusses information about how the idea of building railroads was considered during the Civil War Era and shortly after the railroad became reality when President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act.
This book was crafted with careful detail. It is brilliant. Each page is filled with vibrant, colorful illustrations. The font is perfect for the book when a character is “yelling” the font is in big letters. There is one page where it says “Chug-Chug Chug-Chug Chug-Chug!” and the font is imbalanced as if the font was moving the wheels of the train. When the mood of the story is quiet or the setting is at night time the pages are dark and gloomy, but when its morning or someone is excited the pages are vibrant and filled with life. The book travels through different scenes as if the reader was actually on the railroad visiting each city. The book starts off on the platform then the reader gets on the train and travels west to San Francisco.
In my opinion, I thought this book was awesome. It is not just a children’s book, but it gives details and information to adults as well. My son was given this book for Christmas and honestly we have never read it. I noticed it was a Caldecott Medal Book, so we read it together. It is rich with so much United States History. There are many details given in the book as well. The words chosen are very detailed and if there were no pictures, a reader would clearly be able to picture the story in their mind. I thought this was very unique.
While reading this book, my son and I discussed how during this time there were no cars, planes, or means of transportation like there are today. We discussed how there were animals (like horses and donkeys) that carried people on their backs or pulled wagons. Besides animals, people had to walk to get around. We discussed why they wanted to build the railroad. Depending on the age of the children, you could give general background information on how the Pacific Railroad Act was passed. My son is too small to understand how a bill is passed. We also discussed who drives the trains and what trains are fueled with. These are just a few prompts one could give while reading this book.
The setting, plot, theme, style, and point of view were all perfect for the message of this story. The lesson of how people transported themselves around. Why they wanted to move west mainly because most of them were searching to strike for gold. The setting of the book is the Pacific Railway and the book goes through each “stop” along the way. The point of view is taken from a traveler it is almost as if the reader is on the train with them.
This book could be taught in many ways. This book could be used as a lesson on the Western movement. When most people were headed west to strike for Gold in California. It could be taught when teaching on President Lincoln and how he contributed to the Pacific Railway. It could also be taught when teaching figurative language since there is a lot of alliterations, rhymes, and onomatopoeia.
Students will understand the purpose of the Transcontinental Railway.
How does the author, Brian Floca, grab the readers attention?
Why do you think Brian Floca adds the extra information in the beginning before the story starts?
What is so important about the Transcontinental Railroad?
Why do you think Abraham Lincoln passed the Pacific Railway Act?
How did Pacific Railway Act benefit people during this time?
How do you think passengers felt while riding the train?
What does Brian Floca teach us in this book?
Students will create a map or model of the Transcontinental Railroad using the book Locomotive.
They could use the endpapers of Locomotive and re-create their own map of the transcontinental Railroad or they could as a group (4-5 students each group) create a model of the Railroad.