Children's Literature - Children's LiteratureA proven historical fiction author, Durbin (Wintering, 1999 and The Broken Blade, 1997) paints an authentic and interesting depiction of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. Sean Sullivan's journal allows the reader an unique insight into how the massive and impressive project was miraculously completed. The big historical facts are here. However, as Sean describes the daily details of life along the line--the jobs he must face, the numerous and small towns that pop up along the railroad, and the competitive incidents in the race between the Union Pacific Railroad (working westward from Omaha, NE) and the Central Pacific Railroad (working eastward from Sacramento, CA)--the reader also learns a number of little-known facts. As the railroad develops and goes through growing pains, so too, does Sean, as evident in his journal. An exceptional offering, valuable for both research and leisurely reading. Part of the "My Name is America" series. 1999, Scholastic, Ages 9 to 12, $10.95. Reviewer: Betsy Barnett
The Journal of Sean Sullivan: A Transcontinental Railroad Worker: Nebraska and Points West, 1867by William Durbin
In 1867, 15-year-old Sean experiences both hardships and rewards when he joins his father in working on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.
Library JournalGr 5-8-Sean gets a job with his father at the Union Pacific Railroad. In his journal, he tells of working his way up from the lowest position of "water carrier" to "spiker" and shares plenty of railroad lingo and information about the boomtowns that he observes along the way. In the first few pages, he sees his first scalp and his first dead body in two unrelated incidents. The issue of prejudice is addressed, both in fights among various workers from Ireland, and with the deadly battles between the employees of the U.P. and the Chinese workers from the Central Pacific line. The role of the press in the races between the two railroads to lay the most track in the shortest time and the fact that much of the U.P. track was so poorly set that it was replaced soon after is noted. Sean is a likable protagonist who notices the small details and reacts to things realistically. A section of notes includes history, period photographs, maps, and other information.-Sharon R. Pearce, Geronimo Public School, OK Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsIn the My Name Is America series, Durbin (Wintering, 1999, etc.) offers the story of Sean Sullivan, whose first day in Omaha, Nebraska, brings him face to face with a victim of an Indian attack; the man survived, but carries his bloody scalp in a bucket. It's August 1897, and Sean has just arrived from Chicago, planning to work with his father on the Intercontinental Railroad. Pa, who carries terrible memories of his stint in the Civil War and of the death three years ago of Sean's mother, is already a foreman for the railroad, but Sean must start at the bottom, as a water carrier, toting barrels of it to the thirsty men who are doing the back-breaking work on the line. At night, everyone is usually too tired to do anything but sleep, but Sundays are free, and Sean discovers the rough and rowdy world of the towns that seem to sprout up from nowhere along the railroad's path over the prairie. Through Sean's eyes, the history of this era and the magnitude of his and his fellow workers' achievements come alive; Durbin has no trouble making Sean's world palpable, and readers will slog along with Sean every step of the way on his long and arduous journey to building a railroad and becoming a man. (b&w maps, photos, reproductions) (Fiction. 8-14)
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