Written and Illustrated by: Brian Floca
The Caldecott Medal Award winning children's book gives readers the chance to explore the historical backstory of how America's original transcontinental railroad transformed the lives of trains, crews, and families. The illustrations create a detailed sensory for sounds, speeds, and strengths of the train. This short tale of traveling families creates a lively experience for children to discover history and feel the heat of the engine.
Locomotive consists of many literary elements that are reflected within the illustrations. The train takes multiple families through the United States until they have reached their destination. The setting takes place through mid western states in the year of 1869. Families and workers express thrilled emotions because of the innovative mobilization that was created. Locomotive has a straight-line plot, which does not have a typical climax and continues the 1800's style through out the story. Illustrations emphasize literary elements through facial expressions, clothing apparel, and landscapes.
The physical features of Locomotive capture a detailed, structured appearance. The book contains large illustrations that bleed across the page when it is focusing in on the train, while other pages have secluded images of the families and workers that are described to be doing something while on the train. The cover and endpaper introduce a map of where the traveling train is routed from beginning to end. The physical features contribute a meaningful experience of the book by creating a simple cover to only open up a book of knowledgeable facts and relatable scenarios. Locomotive was not just any train, but it was the first train to experience the transcontinental railroads full of cheerful families and workers.
Locomotive holds many visual elements that contribute to the overall meaning of the picture book. Through out the pages, most of the pictures of the railroads and train exemplify thicker lines to represent the strength and power of the groundbreaking creation. Also, most lines are horizontal to suggest stability and continuous movement. The red and yellow colors suggest cheerfulness and boldness. Shapes are mostly rounded and they also suggest stability and comfort. The texture seems to present a smooth and firm feeling to enable a greater sense of reality. Additionally, the compositions of the shapes are loosely grouped together implying freedom. The illustrations give readers an enhanced point of view and distance perspectives by providing up-close visuals as if they are apart of the story. All of these elements contribute to a purposeful meaning within the picture book in many ways. Locomotive is a feel good, realistic story that allows readers to experience the comfortable, stable, and empowering railroad.
The artistic style of this book is realistic. The realistic characters, feelings, and places give readers the chance to better relate to the story while also gaining knowledge. Children can relate to the situation of traveling or feeling accomplished from finishing a project. The cities, towns, and states described are actual places readers could have grown up in or visited once before. All of these possible relations allow readers to better involve themselves within the story while being able to expand their knowledge of logistic information through the realistic style of the picture book.
The author and illustrator of Locomotive, Brian Floca, used a variety of artistic media for the illustrations. Pen and ink was used to outline the images before using watercolor. Then after this process is completed, the steps were repeated until the illustrations are up to a certain standard. Floca’s use of media brings out high resolution and detailed images. Also, it gives the readers a chance to concentrate on the vital details while still being able to participate in word usage such as “Chug- Chug!” Brian Floca demonstrates the clarity of images through specifics, while appealing to the reader’s senses. The minor details contribute to the overall meaning of the picture book’s realism and highlighted word use.
Elements of Illustration
Through out this picture book, the elements of illustrations contribute to the overall meaning by providing organization and emphasizing images. There is a recognizable pattern between the images that are represented on each page. Almost every other page stresses the sound sensory words with images of the train traveling on the railroad. Furthermore, a paragraph of words is directly next to the image it is describing. As the page turns, readers are able to easily identify sensory words and different locations. Also, the pages have a mix of double spread with occasional portraits against a white background, as well as having distinct separation from other illustrations. Some portraits seem smaller than others as you progress in the story. The narrative sequence guides readers to the end of the traveling route in order to feel the happiness families express once they have met with their families. All of these elements create a fun and joyful reading for children to interactively respond to, while riding along the journey through their own imagination.
Interplay of Text and Illustrations
The text and illustrations interplay from beginning to end. Each illustration has a text paragraph placed to the right or left of it to further tell the story. Also, the bolded and decorative sensory words capture the meaning behind each situation that involves the train, crew, and or families. The text creates a high impact as to how the story is read and is most appealing to the eye in short, descriptive paragraphs. The illustrations alone tell a story, however, the text interplay gives the illustrations meaning to the picture.
Overall, the picture book, Locomotive, has meaningful elements and features that highly impact the story. Each page contains different fundamentals that give you perspectives which add to the complexity of the plot, images, characters, etc. As a reader, it is easy to surpass all of the details a picture book provides you with. Locomotive is a book for readers who enjoy realistic stories, capturing sensory words, and detailed illustrations. The illustrations are not only for the enjoyment of readers, but it also enables children to gain knowledge from the 18th century.
Floca, B. (2013). Locomotive. An imprint of Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing.
Brian Floca | Online Extras. (n.d.). Retrieved February 08, 2016, from