Thursday, October 24, 2013

Richard Ford, boy fireman

A nice piece by novelist Richard Ford on a summer spent as a fireman, after the days of steam, ran in the New York Times on Sunday. It's online here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Poets and trains

A new Emily Dickinson archive is online today, here. (An article about the archive appears in today’s New York Times, here.) At the archive you can find Dickinson’s poem “I like to see it lap the miles”

I like to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;
And then, prodigious, step 

Around a pile of mountains,
And, supercilious, peer
In shanties by the sides of roads;
And then a quarry pare 

To fit its sides, and crawl between,
Complaining all the while
In horrid, hooting stanza;
Then chase itself down hill 

And neigh like Boanerges;
Then, punctual as a star,
Stop docile and omnipotent
At its own stable door. 

The poem never says what it” is, but you can guess, I think. Dickinson wrote the poem in or around 1862—by coincidence or not, the year Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act. I like to see it lap the miles” and two other poems—Walt Whitman’s poems “To a Locomotive in Winter” and  “Passage to India” are mentioned in the author’s note in Locomotive as examples of the trains once commanding place in the culture. 

(And Boanerges? A surname given by Jesus to James and John in Mark 3:17. It’s Hebrew for Sons of Tumult, says Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, but was commonly translated in the Bible as Sons of Thunder, and surely that’s how Dickinson meant to use it. Finally, says Brewer’s, Boanerges was also the nickname given to his Brough motorcycles by T. E. Lawrence—who at one point wrote the Brough company to say that he found the bikes as fast and reliable as express trains. Everything connects!)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Locomotive resources

For teachers and librarians interested in using Locomotive in the classroom, or for readers just interested in digging a little further into the book, a page of Teacher Resources is online from Simon & Schuster, here. These include a (Common Core-friendly) curriculum guide. (The direct link for that PDF is here.) A review and a collection of links, resources, teaching ideas, and other relevant titles is also on the blog The Classroom Bookshelf, in a post by Erika Thulin Dawes, here. Thanks to S&S and the Classroom Bookshelf for the thoughtful attention!

Above: a painting of the train leaving the station. This page eventually became a spread, and so this painting wasn't used.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shelf Awareness and BCCB stars and reviews

Life on the road touring for Locomotive has me late in posting some review news for the book. First, thank you to Shelf Awareness for a starred review of the book that appeared last month, here. “[R]eaders will want to board this locomotive again and again,” concludes the review. And now I’m happy to see Locomotive on a list, here, of books receiving starred reviews in October’s issue of The Bulletin of the Center for Childrens Books. The BCCB asks, “So, how much do you want to know about America’s first transcontinental railroad? Just the general picture?” In which case a reader might go through the book and simply enjoy the “poetic account” of a family’s trip. Or, “if you’re truly among the nerdiest of train nerds,” you can dig into author’s notes and endpapers and “compare the engines underway in the main text with the innards in the diagram” and so on. The idea that the book can operate on different levels for different readers is one I’m very glad to read. Thanks again, Shelf Awareness, and thank you, BCCB! 

Above: a doubleheader pulling out of Truckee, California. Two engines for two reviews.