Book review: Locomotive

Floca, Brian. Locomotive. “A Richard Jackson book.” Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013. $17.99 ISBN 9781416994152 Unpaged. “Ages 4-10.” P8Q8

Every year, after the Caldecott and Newbery Medals are awarded, there is a recurring game: questioning why the award went to THAT book. This year’s Caldecott Medal winner and Sibert honor book, Brian Floca’s Locomotive, is no exception. This beautifully illustrated story describes a family’s 1869 journey by train from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California on the newly opened Transcontinental Railroad. The ever-changing landscape and the attention in the artwork to the details of the railroad engine and cars and to the arrangements for fuel, water, food, and sleeping are borne out by the bibliography and author’s notes at the end of the book. However, as Debbie Reese and others have noted, there are no Native Americans pictured in the entire book. Since that population was an integral part of the population of the American West, the omission is evidence of a rather large error of fact, which should have made the book, as a nonfiction text, ineligible for such major awards. As the winner of the Caldecott Medal, Locomotive belongs in public and school libraries across the nation. As an addition to the U.S. historical canon, Locomotive fails badly. October 2014 review by Jane Cothron.

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