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4.12  ·  Rating details ·  5,427 ratings  ·  1,386 reviews
It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding America's brand-new transcontinental railroad. These 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.
Hardcover, 64 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,427 ratings  ·  1,386 reviews

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Jan 19, 2014 rated it did not like it
I see why people love Floca's book. The illustrations of the trains are terrific. As far as train-technology goes, it is way-cool. However, in 2013, couldn't it have been made more inclusive?

The Chinese laborers, for example, are shown in illustrations twice, but never mentioned in the part that children will read. Chinese laborers, some sources say, made up 90 percent of the labor force. When celebrations were held on completion of the transcontinental railroad, they were not invited. When they
Many childhood obsessions come down to sheer scale. Whether it’s dinosaurs or trucks (the modern, smog belching dinosaur equivalent) or even princesses (adults are large, no matter how you approach them), size matters. But the kids who loves trains hold a special place in every children’s librarian’s heart. Train lovers are the nerds of the toddler world. They revel in complexity. And as with all obsessions, some kids grow out of them and some become even more enthralled. What sets Brian Floca’s ...more
Taking a train from East to West and how the country was connected. This is very much about the history of our country and how important trains used to be. It was a trip of a lifetime I assume.

This is very well done, great artwork, nice historical touches. It was a bit long. The kids seemed to lose interest as the story wore on.
As a narrative in and of itself, Brian Floca's Locomotive for all intents and purposes and in general does present and depict a truly wonderful and expressive marriage of text and images (and is thus also and certainly a more than worthy recipient of the 2014 Caldecott Medal), glowingly and intensely, engagingly showing the excitement and eager anticipation of the first transcontinental USA railways, of finally being able to travel in relative comfort and ease by train across the vast stretches ...more
Jim Erekson
Dec 22, 2013 rated it liked it
This is the first in a pile Lu Benke supplied me of 2014 Caldecott hopefuls.

As a history book (well-sourced), I couldn't help but compare it to Yin & Sontpiet's Coolies which did so much to complicate the story of the transcontinental railroad with underlying cruelties and injustices of labor. Locomotive did absolutely none of that. In a day when we have access to so many historical tools and lenses, all this book did was celebrate the ride.

There are so many tools writers have to present compl
May 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Artistically, it isn't hard to see why Locomotive won the 2014 Randolph Caldecott Medal as the year's "most distinguished American picture book for children". Brian Floca's drawings for the book border on all-time spectacular here and there: the closeup blur of the speeding train as it whooshes down the track; the smear of Western scenery meandering by on the horizon as the iron horse chugs along from coast to coast; the dizzying height of the train's route while it negotiates gorges spanned by ...more
Nov 14, 2017 added it
I've never been a fan of trains, but this points out why they're such an important part of our history, and why everyone should visit a railroad museum at least once in their lives. (Here in Carson City we've a pretty good one, and there are rides on holidays including a 'Santa Train').

It's a long book, and I did not read every word, especially the notes. It's more about riding the train, taking the trip that is so much more comfortable and fast than the covered wagons' journeys that had been th
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture, non-fiction
I'm not the target audience for this. I'm not very interested in trains, yet already knew all the basic information and history covered here (probably because they were important to California history). I'm not a child, and even when I was I wasn't a big reader of this sort of informative non-fiction. When I did read non-fiction it was usually about mythology or animals. I'm also not usually a fan of the format with words in funny fonts or speech bubbles in illustrations, because for me they bre ...more
Mar 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Hm. So this is the Caldecott winner from 2013, and I admit that the pictures are amazing. The book is amazing, too, packed with information about traveling across the country by steam train just after the joining of the two great railroads. The format is excellent, and the information is presented in a fun way. But my personal criteria for picture books is that you should be able to read them to children who can't read themselves, and in that respect this book did not wow me. Or my two youngest. ...more
Wow. It took me forever to make myself read this because it was always longer than I expected, but I'm so glad I did. What an inspiring journey on an early train! I actually choked up at the page turn onto the Great Plains, with its sudden double-page spread and tiny train. "Here the bison used to roam,/by the hundreds, by the millions." And when night falls:

"Through the night the engine runs.
Those up late hear her whistle,
her wild and lonesome cry.
It echoes on far hills and homes,
it sounds in
Kristine Hansen
This book takes you cross country by someone who certainly knows their stuff. The research into this book (detailed a little bit at the back) was well done and then presented in a way that's easy to read and understand. The sights and sounds and smells are all there, and you come away feeling like you've experience this train ride.

Loves the explanations on the end papers a lot. To an adult who loves history and how things work, this becomes a treasure for them to enjoy as much as the child did
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Young People Interested in American History & the History of the Railroads
Breathtakingly beautiful, effortlessly informative, and intensely engaging, Brian Floca's Locomotive is a work of picture-book history that deserves all the accolades that it has won, from the Caldecott Medal it received for the artwork, to the Robert F. Sibert Honor it was awarded for content. The story of the building of the transcontinental railroad, which was built east from the Pacific coast by the Central Pacific Railroad Company, and built west from Omaha by the Union Pacific Railroad, it ...more
Marta Buryan
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. It is informative, creative and engaging, all at the same time.

The greatest strength of Locomotive lies in its wonderful illustrations. Painted with subtle watercolours, the pictures brilliantly convey the spirit of the nineteenth-century USA. Because brown, beige and yellow are the dominating colours, the illustrations remind me of the old, sepia photographs. This is why reading this book felt as looking at old photo album containing actual pictures of the America
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is amaaaaaaaazing!!! Readers travel west in the summer of 1869 with a family who is hoping to start a new life. Text gives readers tons of information from the sights and the sounds to the machinery and the people who work on the locomotive. Watercolor, ink, gouache, and acrylic illustrations give readers a variety of views from up close details of the locomotive to vignettes of the different stopping points along the trip.

A lengthy note on the locomotive and sources used in writing t
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great, fun and educational children’s/YA read. The illustrations were out of this world and kept the read thoroughly engaged. By the end of this short book, I had gain such a respect for our historic steam train 🚂
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Locomotives are frightening. Locomotives are fascinating.
Huge beasts spouting black puffs of smoke, crossing the vast stretches of land have captured the imagination of many an author. Poland also has a penchant for locomotives and cherishes its tradition with nostalgia. America has a tradition to boast, too, rather understandably so. Brian Floca presents his view on locomotives in his picture book Locomotive – a truly thrilling ride around the world of those big machines.
In terms of the organi
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I certainly liked the edition of this book - hardcover, large format, a big map, many details concerning a historical background and technical issues related to the construction of a locomotive, steam power. There is even a long note on the locomotive and sources used when writing this book - I guess that these are for parents rather than children. Generally, I admire the pictures, the colors and the graphic style. However, I think that there are too many pages with white background which makes ...more
The art earns 4-stars, but the text rates 3. The target audience must be someone who loves trains. I was finding it long, so I'm sure that many kids would, too. One of my chronic complaints about non-fiction written for a young audience is that the explanations don't do the job. Just because the sentences are short and the font is large, the text is not more understandable. For example:

Then the engineer, the "hogger,"
pushes forward the Johnson bar. ...
He pulls the throttle lever.
He opens the t
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their older children
A bit dense and chock full of information, this is a lovely picture book about the building of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States.

The narrative is entertaining and is filled with interesting stories and lots of onomatopoeia and the illustrations are marvelous. We loved the map that depicted the railway construction in the front of the book and referred to it often. And I liked that the science of the steam powered engine is explained on the back endpages of the book, too.

Katherine Austin
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reading-4050
1) Book summary, in your own words (3 pts)
-Locomotive is a book about... locomotives. Through this book students will learn about the first transcontinental railroad and how it works. The book takes advantage of rhymes and repetition to help keep the readers' attention.
2) Grade level, interest level, lexile (1 pt)
-Kindergarten-2nd grade
3) Appropriate classroom use (subject area) (1 pt)
4) Individual students who might benefit from reading (1 pt)
-Students learning about the transcontinen
Stacy M. Patton
—— Caldecott Winner: 2014——

Wow! What a wonderful book!! This book won awards for good reason! This book takes a look at the first trains that took people to the west. It starts off with a quick overview of how the railroad was built and then the story continues with the adventure of the trip out west. It covers the various jobs of the men who kept the train working, how the people rode on the train (including menu, entertainment, sleeping, etc), the different stops the train would make and the p
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: picture-books
The illustrations were absolutely fabulous, however the story was severely lacking. Where are the lines about the Native Americans who lost there land, livelihoods, and ways of life due to the railroad? Where are the lines about the many immigrants especially the Chinese who worked to actually build the railroad?
This book should have been shortened to a picture book and then maybe the lack of information would be more understandable; excusable no, understandable maybe.
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful pictures, beautiful text. Only problem is the length. Too long for reading it all aloud! I soon started abridging for the sake of my four-year-old's attention span. Not sure who the target audience is, but I loved the facts and the illustrations. Also: this book smells really good.
Joanna Marple
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Opening Lines:

made for crossing
the country,
a new road of rails
made for people
to ride.


On July 1st 1862, during the civil war, Abraham Lincoln signs a law enabling the Central Pacific Railroad Company to build a railroad east from California. The Union Pacific Railroad Company is created to build westward from Nebraska. They are given state aid and 12 years to complete this humungous task! The construction is completed 5 years ahead of schedule and this beautiful book f
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am astonished by the fact that the book involved me so much, as I have never been interested in history. I have always been thinking that learning about history is boring, because you just have to memorize dates, people, places...a lot of unnecessary details. However, Locomotive made something unbelievable to me: it made me read so eagerly that I couldn't stop. The question is: why? I think that Floca is a very ingenious man. He had an idea for a book which may be addressed to everyone, childr ...more
Teegan Hite
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: caldecott-books
Locomotive, by Brian Floca, is a Caldecott book, which tells the story of a locomotive's journey across the western frontier to the west coast. To begin, the story has a simple plot, which is made more interesting, as the main character is a locomotive. The book also includes people who ride the train, but their characters are never developed and they simply help describe the importance of the train and its route to the west. Since the main character of the story is a train, young students will ...more
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
I picked this up after it won the Caldecott Medal, and it's relatively easy to see why it won the award. The illustrations are expansive, detailed and coloured an ideal balance between lush and sparse; the variety of different perspectives lend an almost cinematic feel to the picture book. Brian Floca also succeeds in telling a story through his illustrations, apart from his words.

Which is a good thing, because the book is not entirely successful in its wordage. Not only is Locomotive far longer
Paige Scott
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-summaries
1) This book describes life on the railroad, and what the crew on a railroad does to a T. This book includes all of the following: from how railroads were built, to what trains hauled and where they picked people up from, to what noises the train makes, all of the jobs needed to run a successful train ride, how the train is powered, what there is to eat on a train, how a train switches tracks or detaches a cart, all leading up to figure out it was the Transcontinental Railroad the book was talki ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this after hearing Floca speak at RISD. His process and research for the book make a great story in themselves -- he drove a train in Connecticut and traversed the Central Plains/Union Pacific route cross country in his car. I learned a lot about both history and the trains themselves from this book -- what really comes through is how much the railways changed the way we travel and transport.

This is 100% a love letter to trains. I came away knowing more than I did when I started reading,
Kristen Carson
Dec 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Book Information:
The genre of this book is informational fiction. Also, the grade level is fourth grade.
This children’s book is what I would consider fiction but also has informative factual information. This book tells a story of the railroads being built and everything that happens on a train. For someone who has never been on a train they would be able to understand what it is like to ride a train just by how descriptive this book is. This story starts on the eastern side of the Unite
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Brian Floca is the author-illustrator of the Caldecott Medal winner Locomotive, the Robert F. Sibert Honor books Moonshot and Lightship, and other picture books, and is the illustrator of many more books for young readers. Brian Floca lives and works in Brooklyn.

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