Written and Illustrated by: Brian Floca

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations

Locomotive explores the first trip of the transcontinental railroad, looking at how the trains, crews, and families handled that first and daring adventure across the country. Allow your child to look over the cover and illustrations before diving into the story, and encourage him/her to make any observations and predictions that may come to mind.

Make Observations and Predictions

What do you notice on the front cover?

What do you think will happen in this story?

Activate Prior Knowledge

What do you know about trains? What kinds of things do they carry? What does a train need to move?

Have you ever been on a train? If so, what was it like? If not, would you like to ride on a train? Why or why not?



Let your child know that this story is about the first transcontinental railroad, or the first railroad that was able to travel from one side of the United States to the other. Look at the inside of the front cover for information on how the transcontinental railroad came to be.  

As You Read

Brian Floca uses wonderful onomatopoeias and alliterations to bring the train sounds to life in the story, so make use of the text to make the reading entertaining. Encourage your child to make the sounds along with you and engage with the story as much as possible. Also, point out the different sizes of the text and let your child know that the size of the text can give you more information. For example, when reading, "Huffs and Hisses...", say, "See, the author made these words really big and red. He is trying to tell us that the sound that the train was making was really loud. Let's huff and hiss like a train!"

Vocabulary Building

Encourage your child to pause the reading when s/he comes across unfamiliar words. Be sure to either explain what they mean or guide your child to their definitions by asking questions about what the illustrations and text surrounding them could possibly tell you about their meaning. Several new words in Locomotive include:

  3. PAIUTE and the SHOSHONE

Making Connections

If your child has been on a train, ask about that trip and talk about some of the things that s/he experienced and saw. If not, ask about long car rides and things that s/he saw out of the window. When reading about the rickety bridge that the train must cross, ask "How would you have felt if you were on that train? Do you think you would have been scared? Why or why not?" 

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret

Talk about the train's journey from coast to coast and the experiences that the people had:

Did you like the story?

What was your favorite part or illustration?

Where was the train coming from? Where was it going to? 

Why was this trip so important?

What were some things that the people saw on their trip?

Activity: Numbers Train

Inspired by: Our Crafts n Things

Supplies: construction paper (many different colors), cotton balls, glue, tape, scissors and markers


Create a numbers train with your little one with this simple and educational activity!

  1. Cut out train tracks using strips of black construction paper and gluing them together. Now cut out an engine and add billowing smoke coming out using cotton balls. 

  2. Decide what numbers you will use for your train. For younger children, you can simply go 1-10 increasing by 1, but if you'd like to make the activity more challenging for older children, decide to use only even numbers or multiples of 5.

  3. Next, cut out different colored boxes for your box cars and work together to write the numbers on each car with a marker. Then, glue them onto the tracks with two small wheels under each.

  4. Begin cutting out small circles for coal and add the appropriate number of coal pieces to each box car. 

  5. Finish it off by working together to write your child's name at the top of your creation, or have your child do it his/her self.

STEM Extension

Check Out The Back Cover

Walk through the back cover with your child and learn about steam power! There is a great diagram and an in-depth explanation for how it all works and it's a cool way for your child to see all of the moving parts that make up the engine of the train! You can also do a quick demonstration at home by making steam using a simple kettle of boiling water. 

Check This Out

Here is a great interview with the author of Locomotive, Brian Floca where he discusses his book as well as his creative process. This allows children to see and hear about the work that goes into writing and creating a book, and that there are people behind stories that are responsible for making them come to life.