Locomotive by Brian Floca
Wow, wow, wow. Wow. Ok. I loved it.
This book is awesome!
It is one part poetry, one part art, one part maps and diagrams, 10 parts awesome and interesting information about trains! Dude, I've lost track of all the parts. Track, get it? But seriously. It managed to be an interesting story about a family going from one coast to another right after the meeting of the transcontinental railroad was finished at promontory point, but also tell you all about what it is like to drive a train, ride in a train, be a fireman, (oh, we are talking about a steam engine here of course, because, back in the day, you know) etc. Reading the book gives you awesome vocabulary but also it's all in this meaningful context so you know exactly what the words are without a glossary or a big break in the interesting stuff "so that I can explain what this word means to you."
The text and illustrations are perfectly married (which is good because they're both by Brian Floca) and oh my goodness the illustrations! Flippin' gorgeous! They're magical and detailed when they need to be and pure and simple when that is called for. The landscapes! The technical details of the inside of a train! The people's faces! It is all there you guys.
I found it so fun to read Locomotive out loud. The flow of the text is so easy and lends itself so well to expressive reading. Variety in the fonts gave me help in reading it aloud to the boys, without poking me in the eyes. (Yay for fonts well done!) Though some pages have a lot of text, it is spaced in such a way that it is still easy to read and that meshes well with the art. It seems obvious to me that Brian Floca took this trip, saw these places (at least once, if not many times) and just loves his subject. I mean it is so cool. It gets you excited about everything about it! I'm geeking out.
Something else I loved about Locomotive is that it is written in collegial direct address* -- meaning, he says things like "you look out the window and you see this, or that." The direct address made the story much more interesting and relevant to me.
The boys loved it. Benjamin (age 5) sat attentively through all 64 pages; and while Levi (age 2) did some running around while I read it, he stayed within earshot and popped back over to look at pictures. Benjamin's favorite page was the back endpaper, which has a cutaway diagram of a steam engine. We spent a long time looking at that page -- reading and deciphering the inner workings of the engine. Levi's favorite page was the one that showed the toilet. This is unsurprising, since he is potty training. Potty TRAINing? Ok I'll stop.
This book was so awesome that I went and found Brian Floca's previous book, Moonshot. Locomotive is still my fave but Moonshot was good too.
Definitely check it out! Have you already read it? What did you think?
*do not be impressed, I did not know this is what it was called until I read it on his website, courtesy of a Kirkus reviewer.