Brian Floca has created a timeless picture book that not only displays excellence in his artistic technique but does a brilliant job of engaging readers in a fun story that effortlessly merges appropriate historical imagery and facts during a time of growth and innovation in the United States. Created with beautiful watercolor, ink, acrylic and gouache, the time appropriate illustrations help build a greater comprehension of the story and the time period represented. The amount of illustrated detail that each page offers begs readers to enjoy this book more than once. The illustrations build different emotions in the reader as they board the train and race across the country with railroad workers and travelers; whistles blowing excitedly, landscapes passing quickly, people sleeping, and sparks flying as the engineer works through difficulties along the way and joyous faces as travelers reach their destination. Each page is waiting to be turned, filled with a rich depiction of any given stage of the journey. This book is a self-contained entity, not dependent on any other media and would be considered a picture book.
The illustrations in Locomotive tie in brilliantly with the mid-1880s time frame that this book takes place in. The story is told in poem with much repetition, onomatopoeia and alliteration, combining historical facts with the tale of a family traveling out west. The imagery that naturally flows from the authors rhythmical voice ties perfectly with the illustrations helping readings visualize and build a greater understand of what it must have been like to not only travel on a train out west but how a train works and what different jobs were a part of making this journey possible. Children of all ages will love reading and viewing this book more than once, it seems that with each reading a new detail pops off the pages from this delightfully illustrated story. The end papers are remarkable. Detailing, at the front, the history of the Continental Railroad and, at the end, how a steam powered locomotive works. The pages in between bring their own beauty as we watch this magificent iron machine work vigorously day and night to bring its passengers to their desired destination. As trains continue to be popular with children, it is easy to imagine that Locomotive will naturally become a classic picture book enjoyed for many generations to come.