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Across America on an Emigrant Train Hardcover – January 1, 1993


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Across America on an Emigrant Train + The Great Fire (Newbery Honor Book) + An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 (Newbery Honor Book)
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 6
  • Lexile Measure: 1180L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: HMH (January 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395633907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395633908
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,374,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-In 1879, Robert Louis Stevenson journeyed from Scotland across the Atlantic and then by train across the United States to join the woman he loved in Monterey, California. Murphy has drawn from the writer's journal to provide a fresh, primary-source account of transcontinental train travel at that time. Choosing by necessity the cheapest passage, Stevenson traveled with other newcomers to the U.S. who had not yet reached their final destination. He describes his companions, the passing countryside, the interior of the railroad cars, and daily life aboard a train. Into these journal entries, Murphy has woven meticulously researched, absorbing accounts of the building of the railroad and its effect on the territory it crossed: the disruption and destruction of Native American life, the slaughter of the buffalo, accidents, the development of the Pullman car, the towns that quickly came and vanished as the construction crews moved on, the snowsheds built to protect the trains in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Abundant, carefully selected period photographs, engravings, and lithographs are every bit as intriguing as the text. Appended is a lengthy bibliography with some original source material. This work supplements Leonard Everett Fisher's more extensive Tracks Across America (Holiday, 1992); it is a readable and valuable contribution to literature concerning expansion into the American West.
Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Gr. 5 and up. As he did in The Boys' War (1990) and The Long Road to Gettysburg (1992), Murphy draws on memoirs and letters to humanize history. This time his main source is the journal of the great writer Robert Louis Stevenson, who traveled in 1879 from Scotland to the woman he loved in California, first on a crowded boat and then on a series of crammed, painfully uncomfortable trains on the transcontinental railroad. Murphy weaves together Stevenson's perilous journey with a general history of the railroad--how it was planned and built, who built it, what it was like to ride it if you were rich and if you were poor, and how it changed the country and those who lived there. Murphy's style is plain: facts and feelings tell a compelling story of adventure and failure, courage and cruelty, enrichment and oppression. The handsome book's design includes lots of white space, two endpaper maps, and many prints, drawings, and black-and-white photographs, carefully captioned to make you pore over the details. The direct quotations from Stevenson show him as observer and participant. This was before he became famous, and he identifies with the emigrants' painful struggle as well as their hope. He's excited by the diversity in America (he loves the place names that express how "all times, races, and languages have brought their contribution"); at the same time, he's appalled at the treatment of Native Americans ("I was ashamed for the thing we call civilization"). Murphy provides no direct documentation (often the source is "one passenger recalled," "some historians have speculated"), but the very long bibliography will be a starting point for those stimulated to read further. The experience of ordinary people revitalizes the myths of the West. Hazel Rochman

More About the Author

Jim Murphy began his career in children's books as an editor, but managed to escape to become a writer, entering a life of personal and creative happiness and enduring financial uncertainty. He's convinced that the latter keeps him coming back to his computer to write every day and feels that a sense of impending doom is the doorway to creativity. He has never counted the number of books he's published (feeling the time and energy is better spent doing research and writing) but guesses that he has over thirty books to his credit. Jim's work has been honored with numerous awards, including two American Llibrary Association Newbery Honor Book Awards, an ALA Robert F. Sibert Award and Sibert Honor Book Award, three National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Awards, a Boston Globe/Horn Book Award and a BG/HB Honor Book Award, two SCBWI Golden Kite Awards, and been a finalist for the National Book Award. Recently, he was given the ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award for "his significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature."

Customer Reviews

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This book gives a lot of background that I needed to compose great stories.
Brad R. Dorval
Highly recommended for anyone interested in RLS, American history and the immigrant experience of the late 19th century.
Stephen Balbach
The carefully selected illustrations add greatly to the understanding, and perfectly complement the text.
W. Barber

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Balbach on April 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a short easy and fun history book that blends excerpts Robert Louis Stevenson's "Amateur Emigrant" and "Across the Plains" with Jim Murphy's prose and descriptions. I was expecting a kids book but far from it - while not academic or even pretentiously so, it's on par with a PBS episode of "American Experience" and reminds me of how fun history can be. The historical photo's are excellent, numerous and tightly connected to the text. Highly recommended for anyone interested in RLS, American history and the immigrant experience of the late 19th century. Jim Murphy has written about a dozen books like this including some Newbury award winners, hope to read some more, the language and prose is easy and leaves a strong impression of time and place, very enjoyable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. Inman on April 10, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a wonderful over view of the hardships endured by our ancestors as they made their way west. There is not really to much information out there about the emigrant trains and this one helped reinforce my own research of my own Grandfather's trip to the west coast with his family from West Virginia as a boy.

Highly recomend for anyone interested in Pioneer times and life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By W. Barber on June 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a thoroughly entertaining and educational, short book, based on the author Robert Louis Stevenson's diary of his trans-oceanic and trans-continental trip in 1879 (years before he became famous and could afford higher-class accomodations). The many hardships and discomforts of travel during all extremes of weather and geographic terrain - not to mention the frequent fatal wrecks - and the indignities suffered by European immigrants, native Americans, Chinese, and the heroic construction laborers, are all described. The carefully selected illustrations add greatly to the understanding, and perfectly complement the text.

Page 45 has a minor ERROR - it says Davy Crockett rode a train in 1820 (but that is before trains were even invented). Mr. Murphy might also have mentioned how the Fred Harvey restaurants years later, improved on the passenger dining experience: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Harvey_Company .

Another entertaining and enlightening book I recommend for understanding the same American historical period, is "The Good Old Days: they were Terrible" by Otto Bettman, which is similarly illustrated.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "anonymous_tsimp_dtown" on March 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A very interesting book with all you need to know about the railroad, transcontinental or Robert Louis Stevenson. Very descriptive, Great Literature.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brad R. Dorval on May 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
I am currently working on a project that will help boost the literacy rate here in America. I have chosen the 1860's as my time period. This book gives a lot of background that I needed to compose great stories. The stories will center on trains, both those who worked them and those who rode them. A great deal will be about the life of orphans. The best part about these stories will be that everyone will be allowed to participate in writing them.
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