Parents' Guide to


By Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 4+

Gorgeous story of train journey is exciting, fact-packed.

Locomotive Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

There aren't any parent reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: Not yet rated
Kids say: Not yet rated

LOCOMOTIVE is a visually dazzling, poetically written, impressively informative picture book. It gives a comprehensive account of what it was like to cross the United States by train in the late 1800s, and is filled with historical facts and detailed watercolor illustrations of everything from how wood and coal fueled the steam engines to how the on-board toilet flushed to what narrow, rickety wooden bridges looked like across steep canyons in the Wild West. Yet by focusing on one family's journey, it becomes a thrilling, relatable human adventure rather than dry textbook material about a long-gone technology. Author-illustrator Brian Floca provides plenty of historical context to underscore what a revelation transcontinental travel was for the people of that era.

In an earth-toned, pastel palette, Floca effectively varies long shots and closeups and uses large-type, all-capital letters for phrases like, "ALL ABOARD!," "FULL STEAM AHEAD!," and the steam whistle's "lonesome cry," "WHOOOOOOO! WHOOOOO! WHOO," to help build excitement. End papers offer a time line and a map of the transcontinental railroad as well as a diagram and explanation of how steam power works. A long Author's Note gives more information, followed by a list of sources for further research.

Book Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate