Locomotive by Brian Floca

locomotiveCindy: This is another one of those times that I am kicking myself for leaving Lynn in the lurch on the blog. She wrote the draft for this book on December 12th and has been waiting for me to write my part. Here is her post written six weeks BEFORE this book won the 2014 Caldecott Medal yesterday:

Lynn:  It’s that time of the year when everyone is making their “Bests” lists  and while Cindy and I aren’t quite ready to post ours, Locomotive (S&S/Atheneum 2013) is definitely going to be on mine.  I love everything about this book from the eye-catching (or should I say cow-catching) cover to the end plates.  I love the illustrations that manage to include intricate details and grand sweeping panoramas.  I love the joyful energy of this book.

The book is framed by the story of a family making a journey on the new Transcontinental Railroad and we readers make that journey with them, experiencing every detail.  Floca gives us the sights, sounds and even the tastes of the trip.  Chicken that tastes like prairie dog anyone?  The text is delightful and even the varied fonts come into play, conveying a sense of the journey.  There is a wealth of information shared here, both in the text and in the illustrations and this is a book that yields more on each reading.

I’ll try to leave something for Cindy but let me close my section by saying that the illustrations are just masterful!  I loved the perspectives, the colors, the use of small moments and big vistas, and the way both humor and grandeur are portrayed.  I loved how much I learned and how much pleasure I had in the learning.  The focus group and I were captivated by this gem of a book that is sure to delight readers of all ages.

Cindy: I just read Locomotive this morning while listening to Pete Seeger after learning of his passing. Of course Wabash Cannonball would come on and be the perfect accompaniment. Pete was always where he needed to be. I’m glad that some things never change.

Lynn and our focus group were right. This book is a gem and I am so happy that the 2014 Caldecott Committee awarded it their medal. I had planned to donate my copy to the elementary libraries in my district, but now that I’ve read it, it is staying in my middle school library to support our Westward Expansion curriculum. I can’t wait to share it with our teachers and students if our snow days ever come to an end. I feel like I am in the middle of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter.

I really don’t need to add anything to Lynn’s critique….the rest of the literate world has already read this or will soon and discover it for themselves. I do want to give a big thumb’s up to our focus group, though, who nailed 3 of the 4 Caldecott winners a few days ago in our 2013 Favorites post. And can you really blame two 10-year-old boys for not picking the very pink Flora and the Flamingo? Great job, guys! Lynn and I didn’t do too bad with our picks, either, even though we weren’t focusing on the award possibilities in our selections. Congratulations to all of the winners. It was great to be there to watch the live announcements again. Always a highlight of Midwinter Meetings.





About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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