Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Paul and I were fortunate enough to spend the last weekend in March visiting NYC...without children. Although we traveled without the kids, that didn't mean that children's literature was very far from my mind, and as I made plans to visit a few local bookstores I discovered that the renowned Books of Wonder had scheduled a Medal Winners book signing for the very weekend we were in town. That's right...Medal Winners. As in, Caldecott and Geisel Medal Winners. I think it was my very favorite part of the entire weekend! Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to review each of the books I bought and had signed, beginning today with Locomotive, the 2014 Caldecott winner.

Just inside the front and back covers of Locomotive you will find depictions of the train parts (back) and the travel line depicted in the book (front). The information here lends itself well to children who are interested in the details and will soak up the background, maps, and history that led to the formation of the Transcontinental Railroad. Although this is a lovely picture book, it could also be a useful research tool for many children.

It goes without saying that the illustrations of Locomotive are amazing. What I truly appreciated about the artistic style of the book is that while the rendering of the locomotive itself is extremely detailed and full of life, the landscape scenery is more dreamy and ethereal, and the text is typically placed among a minimalist background. This style allows the reader to truly focus on the locomotive and the action depicted without being distracted by peripheral busyness.

One of the most remarkable feats of this book is the use of vintage typefaces and sound effects to draw the reader into the adventure aboard the locomotive. The hiss of the steam, the clang of the bell, the breath of the engine nearly jump off of each page as you move through the varying landscapes, heaving up mountains, barreling across deserts toward the West Coast.

Locomotive is sure to delight those with a childhood train obsession and enthrall those who never knew a train story could be quite so captivating.