Atheneum Books, Hardcover, 9781416994152, 64pp.
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
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.
Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country.
* "Floca took readers to the moon with the Apollo 11 mission in Moonshot (2009); now he takes them across the country on an equally historic journey of 100 years earlier.
In a collegial direct address, he invites readers to join a family—mother, daughter and son—on one of the first passenger trips from Omaha to Sacramento after the meeting of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific in May 1869. With encyclopedic enthusiasm, Floca visually documents the trip, vignettes illustrating the train’s equipment as well as such must-know details as toilet and sleeping conditions. Full- and double-page spreads take advantage of the book’s unusually large trim for breathtaking long shots of the American landscape and thrilling perspectives of the muscular engine itself.... Unjustly undersung as a writer, Floca soars with his free-verse narrative, exploiting alliteration, assonance and internal rhyme to reinforce the rhythms of the journey. Frequent variations in font and type (“HUFF HUFF HUFF!” is spelled out in ornate, antique letters) further boost the excitement. Front endpapers provide detail on the building of the transcontinental railroad; back endpapers show the steam engine in cross section, explaining exactly how coal and water made it go.
Nothing short of spectacular, just like the journey it describes."
* “Floca follows up the acclaimed Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (2009) with this ebullient, breathtaking look at a family’s 1869 journey from Omaha to Sacramento via the newly completed Transcontinental Railroad…. It’s impossible to turn a page without learning something…multiple wow moments...will knock readers from their chairs. Fantastic opening and closing notes make this the book for young train enthusiasts.”
* "It all started with “a new road of rails/made for people to ride” where “covered wagons used to crawl.” Almost 150 years ago–just after the Civil War–the completion of the transcontinental railway radically changed both this country’s landscape and the opportunities of its people. The book traces the advent of cross-country train travel, focusing on an early trip from Omaha to Sacramento. As in Moonshot (2009) and Lightship (2007, both S & S), Floca proves himself masterful with words, art, and ideas. The book’s large format offers space for a robust story in a hefty package of information…the travelogue scheme will read aloud nicely and also offers absorbing details for leisurely personal reading. Substantial introductory and concluding sections serve older readers. There’s also a detailed explanation of the author’s efforts and sources in exploring his subject. Train buffs and history fans of many ages will find much to savor in this gorgeously rendered and intelligent effort.”
* “In 1869, not long after the golden spike is driven into the rails at Promontory Summit, a mother and her two children climb aboard the Transcontinental Railroad, leaving behind their old life in Omaha for a new one in California, where Papa awaits. Floca (Moonshot) chronicles their journey from multiple perspectives: documentarian, poet, historian, tour guide, and irrepressible railroad geek. With the rhythmic, verselike text that’s become his signature; expressive typography; and handsome, detailed watercolor, ink, and gouache paintings, he celebrates the majestic (the passing western landscape), the marvelous (the engineering and sheer manpower required to keep the engine safely on its course), and the mundane, from the primitiveness of the toilets to the iffiness of depot food (“If the chicken/ tastes like prairie dog,/ don’t ask why”). It’s a magisterial work (even the endpapers command close reading), but always approachable in its artistry and erudition. And readers will come away understanding that the railroad wasn’t just about getting a group of passengers from Point A to Point B; it carried an entire nation into a new, more rapid world.”