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Children's LiteratureThis entry in the "Crossroads America" series begins with a short introduction of steam trains and the changes they wrought in transportation, the need for track, and people's sending of goods. Much of the book is given over to the Big Four, as Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker were called, and their planning and development of The Union Pacific Line. One short chapter presents "The Workers," including a typical day, a work train, role of the Chinese, threats from Native Americans, and the famous race. In 1966, the government approved a race between the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific, moving toward each other with the one that laid the most track making the most money. Interestingly, the track was finished seven years ahead of schedule. A fascinating end chapter details who rode the train, a sidebar mentions Jesse James, first class and immigrant travel are compared, and the summary suggests what changes this cross-country railroad wrought. Photographs, tinted etchings, primary source material, maps, boxed short quotes, and the occasional sidebar contribute to this well-designed book. It's a fine addition to the series and one that would serve middle-school readers studying American History as well provide supplemental reading for an average reader in a high school course. 2004, National Geographic, Ages 10 to 14.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.