Start your steam-powered journey through the pages of this handsome book by slipping off the jacket. Underneath, wrapping around the front and back covers, is a prairie panorama: a herd of bison stretching away to the endless horizon, unintended casualties of the march to progress. As he did in his Sibert Honor book, Moonshot, author-illustrator Brian Floca weaves a poetic text and dramatic illustrations into an appealing narrative, providing young readers with both factual information about early train travel and a visceral sense of what it must have been like to climb aboard an iron horse in 1869. On a platform in Omaha, a mother, daughter and son peer anxiously down the track, waiting to begin a trip “through days and nights, / across the wide country, / down to the sea.” Readers quickly encounter the brakeman, fireman, engineer and conductor as the train gets under way with a “CLANG-CLANG . . .
HISSSSSSSSS . . . HUFF HUFF HUFF!” Carefully varied perspectives – from spectacular close-ups of wheels meeting tracks to lonely long shots of a toy-size string of cars lost in a vast sea of grass – as well as wildly varying fonts give readers a sense of the thump-and-bump, start-and-stop, rush-and-wait of this weeklong excursion. Readers even get a peek at what people read, how they ate and where the “convenience” was located. “Don’t wait for the train to stop – / it’s rude to use the toilet / when the train is sitting at a station.”
The Washington Post