Brian Floca

Award Winning Author and Illustrator


Brian Floca takes the reader on a ride on the transcontinental railroad. Floca introduces you to many different parts of the train and the workers that make the journey possible. Floca uses this journey to highlight some of the sights alone the railway. His illustrations are based off of actual landmarks along the railway. In this book the reader is taken from the plains of Nebraska and Wyoming, westward to Utah where the two railways meet, through the deserts and mountains of Nevada, and finally to California, where they can create a new life on the Pacific. Through the beautiful illustrations and typography, Floca makes readers feel as if they are actually taking a ride on the transcontinental railroad. In my classroom we could use this book to talk about westward expansion. We could do a study of America’s geography and the different terrains found in the U.S. You could talk about how the development of the transcontinental railroad, made it possible to further expansion to occur, thus helping to create the country we call home today.

Locomotive trailer


This realistic fiction book describes the life of a lightship. The crew and cat are fictitious characters but the life of these types of ships is true. Lightship offers readers the important role lightships used to play for the safety of larger ships. Lightships hold their places and become lighthouses in places where only a ship can reach. In 1983 the last lightship sailed for port. Floca includes, on the inside flaps of the cover, a detailed illustration of a ship and he has also labeled all of the parts. This book can be used to teach students about portable lighthouses called lightships. One could also teach about the different jobs of crew members on ships and the different parts of the ship.

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring

Written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan and illustrated by Brian Floca. This is a nonfiction children’s picture book about the creation of the classic American ballet, Appalachian Spring. Readers are introduced to the creators of the ballet, Martha Graham the choreographer and dancer, Aaron Copland the composer, and Isamu Noguchi the set designer. Together they create a riveting ballet about the excitements of marriage and starting a new life and the uncertainties of the future. This book includes the hard work put into the ballet, the frustrations of creating the perfect dance moves, the uncertainty of an audiences’ reaction, the hours of practice, and the adjustments of dancers to a new set. Floca captures all of these emotions in the faces of the characters through his illustrations. His characters are drawn in such a way that they seem as if they are going to dance off the page. This is a great book to read to students during a history lesson. Or a study on forms of dance. Maybe a class is going to create their own play or production and this book is used as an example of perseverance and hard work.


A picture book that tells the story of the flight of Apollo 11. Three astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, embark on a historical adventure to explore where no man has gone before, the moon. Floca brilliantly writes and illustrate this story. He takes us from the roar of the jets, to the silence of the moon, to the incredible depiction of how big yet so small our Earth is. He draws you in with the story, but leaves you speechless with the illustrations. I would use this story to talk about any number of subjects in science and history. Of course the flight of Apollo 11 is an important event that can be connected with the story, but one could also talk about gravity, the surface of the moon, the mechanics of rockets and spaceships, the apparel worn by astronauts, etc. This is a great book to read aloud to students to get them interested and excited about space exploration.


Elizabeth: Queen of the Seas

Written by Lynne Cox and illustrated by Brian Floca. This is a true story about an elephant seal named Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas. Elizabeth lives in the shallow waters of the Avon River in Christchurch, New Zealand. Elizabeth liked to lie in the road to bask in the sun, which causes a problem for the people of Christchurch. After Elizabeth narrowly misses being hit by a car, the people of Christchurch decide to tow Elizabeth out into the ocean to be with other elephant seals. As soon as Elizabeth is brought out to sea, she decides to swim back to her favorite spot in Christchurch. They go through this several times before they just decide to put up a sign that says, “Slow. Elephant seal crossing.” Elizabeth continued to live in the Avon River in Christchurch, New Zealand without the huge threat of being hit by cars or taken back out to sea. If you were to talk about elephant seals, this true story would be a great way to introduce the animal. You could use this book to talk about all the different behaviors animals have. Or if you were doing a study on different countries, you could use this book to get kids interested in New Zealand.