Steam, Smoke and Steel


All aboard! This train travels through history making stops in time to learn about the progress of travel by rail.

Hop up into the cab of a speeding modern-day locomotive and look down the tracks into the past. Perhaps these are the same tracks that the diesel-electric locomotives of thirty years ago thundered down, pulling their loads. Perhaps you can see the steam engines of thirty years before that. Watch time unravel and the landscape change as the history of trains barrels ...

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All aboard! This train travels through history making stops in time to learn about the progress of travel by rail.

Hop up into the cab of a speeding modern-day locomotive and look down the tracks into the past. Perhaps these are the same tracks that the diesel-electric locomotives of thirty years ago thundered down, pulling their loads. Perhaps you can see the steam engines of thirty years before that. Watch time unravel and the landscape change as the history of trains barrels through the pages of STEAM, SMOKE AND STEEL: BACK IN TIME WITH TRAINS.

The first trains puffed great billowing clouds of smoke and showered passengers with burning embers as they sped down the rails at a pulse-pounding twenty miles an hour! By the 1850's, however, trains were traveling much faster, much farther, and much cleaner and train travel contributed to the growth of our nation. Young readers will be fascinated by the exciting — and sometimes dangerous — story of trains while they learn about the different kinds of engines, equipment, and jobs necessary for operating trains throughout history. The young narrator introduces readers to trains from the time of his great-great-great-great-great grandfather at the turn of the nineteenth century to his father's train of today, showing the great changes that invention and progress have brought over time.

Patrick O'Brien's striking illustrations emphasize the beauty, grandeur, and romance of the train. Detailed and richly textured oil paintings take readers on a trip through time to ride aboard open-air cars, travel through mountain passes, and roar down the rails on high-speed bullet trains. Budding engineers will love getting a glimpse at the past and dreaming about the future of trains.

A story about a cat and her kittens watching as children learn to prepare their favorite foods for a party for the mother cat's birthday introduces such recipes as "Meowvelous" Munchies, "Purr-Fect" Pasta, and Gingerbread Kitties.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
For this short history of trains, O'Brien (Gigantic! How Big Were the Dinosaurs?) brings a fictional overlay to a fact-filled presentation. The child narrator comes from a long dynasty of train engineers. Starting with his father (who drives a giant locomotive) and working his way back to his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather ("one of the very first people ever to drive a train in this country"), the narrator describes the generations both of his family and of trains. Both the text and the watercolor-and-gouache illustrations are generous with details, explaining how different types of engines work and identifying specific parts of various trains. Anecdotes dot the narrative. For example, in the 1960s the boy's grandfather hauls a circus train up from Florida; in the 1870s Jesse James and his gang stage a hold-up of the great-great-great-grandfather's train. But the storytelling isn't vivid enough to overcome the limitations of the mannered structure--only railroad aficionados are likely to hop aboard. Ages 4-9. (July) EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING Anne Mazer. Scholastic, $4.50 paper (144p) ISBN 0-439-14977-0 ~ Mazer (The Fixits) introduces a spunky and appealing heroine in this inaugural volume of The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes: she--and her days--are more average than amazing. This is, in fact, the bee in Abby's bonnet. Her three "SuperSibs" outshine her. One of her older twin sisters excels at virtually every sport, the other is the top student in ninth grade, and her younger brother is a math and computer genius. Her lawyer mother also runs marathons, and her father owns a successful computer business. Where does this leave poor Abby? Feeling "small and insignificant," yet determined to prove "that she was deserving of being a Hayes, too." At the start of her fifth-grade year, Abby resolves to make her mark by becoming a soccer star by the end of the fall season. Documented largely through the journal writings of this devoted young writer, Abby's quest to reach this goal, as well as her frustration with her accomplished siblings, makes for repetitious reading at times. But Mazer injects some moments of sophisticated, wry humor (e.g., a Bridget Jones-like journal entry in which the allegedly newly reformed heroine notes, "Went home and ate plate of cookies to celebrate decision to turn self into great athlete"). In the end, Abby's real talents outshine those to which she aspires. Abby may well score enough points with readers that they'll ride out this tale's pleasures and faults, and move on to her next caper, The Declaration of Independence, also due this month. Ages 8-12. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
From The Critics
Wow! A super picture book about trains, told from a child's perspective. The humor will be appreciated. Kids will want to read this book again and again and will delight in the chronological and historical train illustrations. 2000, Charlesbridge Publishing, $6.95. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: A. Braga SOURCE: Parent Council Volume 8
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-Beginning with a boy's description of his father's job as a locomotive engineer, this book offers a history of railroads through the eyes of the child's ancestors. From his father's modern train, complete with computer controls, readers jump back to the boy's grandfather, who drove a diesel locomotive in the 1960s. They continue back through the years to the youngster's great-great-great-great-great grandfather, one of the first to drive the "brand-new invention called a steam locomotive." Each section starts with a two-page spread with a large illustration of the train from the time period. Each one sits in the same station and has a different cat for observant eyes to spot. Alternate spreads feature more detailed information about these means of locomotion in the various eras. Technology facts are neatly interwoven with reminiscences from various relatives. Great-great-great-grandfather's train was held up by Jesse James; great-grandmother was one of the few women who drove a steam locomotive in the 1930s. In a pleasing conclusion, the boy imagines himself as a grown-up engineer, telling his own daughter about driving a futuristic train. The inventive narrative approach presents plenty of fascinating facts about trains of the past. At the same time it conveys a sense of family pride, as well as respect for earlier days. The fictionalized anecdotes give just enough information for children to get a sense of what it might have been like to ride (or drive) a train over the past 150 years.-Steven Engelfried, Deschutes County Library, Bend, OR Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
paper: 0-88106-972-8 This historical survey depicts the changing technology and appearance of locomotives from the 1830s to the 1990s. O'Brien (Gigantic! How Big Were the Dinosaurs?, 1999, etc.) uses the device of a first person account of a fictional young boy whose ancestors are all train engineers. Beginning in the present and going backward in time, vignettes about a circus train, a Jessie James holdup, and a race between a stagecoach and an early locomotive are interspersed with technical information about trains and building the rails of the period. The illustrations help the reader see not only the changing locomotives but also the changing styles of clothing and architecture. A cat in the first picture looks directly at the reader, almost as if asking the reader to accompany her to the past. Her forebears look on in many of the illustrations, leading the eye to details in the watercolor and gouache paintings. The soft-focus style illustrating scenes in the past becomes sharper when depicting technical information. This fictional family may give a sense of time for youngsters, but the mixture of the fictional with the historical leads to questions about the facts. Did a woman really become an engineer in the 1930s? Was there a race between a train and a horse and carriage? How could an engineer make sure that no one got hurt during a train robbery? A pleasant book for the casual reader but not enough substance for the real train enthusiast. (Nonfiction. 4-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780881069723
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/28/2000
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 255,100
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.14 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick O'Brien was raised a Navy "brat" and moved around a lot as a child, but now he calls Baltimore, Maryland, home. He grew up drawing and painting, but did not realize that he should be an illustrator until after he graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in biology. He then attended art school at Virginia Commonwealth University and started a successful freelance career drawing storyboards for advertising agencies.
In addition to STEAM, SMOKE and STEEL, Patrick has illustrated several other children's books, including A WASP IS NOT A BEE (Holt), A PIRATE'S LIFE FOR ME, BOTTOMS UP: A BOOK ABOUT REAR ENDS (Holt), and GIGANTIC: HOW BIG WERE THE DINOSAURS (Holt).

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