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The song version of Casey Jones's death in a fateful collision is what brought me to this fictional story-book. Gorgeous full-color illustrations bring to life the upbringing and career of an African-American fireman (engineer's assistant) on a powerful steam locomotive. Sim Webb's efforts to save Casey Jones are ultimately unsuccessful: there's a vivid Satan-like figure, a gold steam whistle that casts a malevolent spell on the engineer, a horrible crash, and a beautiful, reassuring ending. Sure, it's moralistic, but it's a powerful story and Nancy Farmer tells it well, and James Bernardin paints it so you can feel the heat from the flames on your cheek as you read.
Publishers Weekly, 1999-09-06 It's all aboard for adventure as Newbery Honor author Farmer (The Eye, the Ear and the Arm) produces an exciting blend of history and imagination. Here, readers see the legendary train engineer Casey Jones through the eyes of his fireman, Sim Webb. As fireman, Webb maintains the coal-burning furnace that provides Jones's engine with its steam power. One night Jones meets a shady character who offers him a golden steam whistle for his engine. Said to be made from the angel Gabriel's trumpet, the whistle will require a dangerous amount of steam to blow. When a proud Jones tries out the new whistle (against Webb's advice), heÄand his engineÄmeet with disaster. Farmer's fully realized portrait of a little-known figure from African-American history will fascinate readers. Narrated by Webb, the account resonates with you-are-there immediacy and emotion. Bernardin (Dancing with the Wind) depicts Webb and Jones as jovial, hardworking young men, but the real stars of these dark-hued dramatic oil paintings are the trains, seen on nearly every page. Showing Jones's Cannonball racing through the inky night, Bernardin seems also to capture the sound of the whistle and the feel of the rushing wind. Children will want to proceed full steam ahead to the dramatic finale. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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