Casey Jones's Fireman: The Story of Sim Webb (Phyllis Fogelman Books)
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Casey Jones's Fireman: The Story of Sim Webb (Phyllis Fogelman Books) [Hardcover]

Nancy Farmer , James Bernardin
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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), heAand his engineAmeet 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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 4-Farmer takes the historical facts of Casey Jones's final train ride and gives the story a Faustian twist. Told in the first person by Jones's African-American fireman, Sim Webb, the tale explains why the Cannonball was traveling at such a high rate of speed on the night of the crash. A stranger who looks suspiciously like the Devil offers Jones a whistle made of seven golden pipes, said to be fashioned from Gabriel's trumpet, which is prophesied to blow on Judgment Day. Jones, with his famous weakness for distinctive train whistles, "borrows" it against Webb's advice. Ordering more steam and speed than is wise, just to make the whistle sound, Jones ignores Webb's warning and rushes toward disaster. He stops shoveling coal and exhorts Jones to look out for lights ahead. The engineer commands his fireman to jump while he stays onboard, hand on the brake. The whistle itself survived the crash to be handed down from trainman to trainman until the day that Gabriel reclaims it. This is dramatic stuff and Bernardin's vivid, painterly illustrations do it justice, with larger-than-life heroes, and the mythic Cannonball hurtling through the night landscape. An author's note presents many facts about the men and 19th-century trains in general. Unfortunately, there are no source notes and readers are left to speculate on which parts of the story are original and which are based in traditional lore. Nonetheless, this is a handsome introduction to the age of steam trains and to two legendary trainmen.
Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Greenwich, CT
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The train disaster of legend and song is told from the perspective of Sim Webb, Casey Jones' fireman on the Cannonball Express. In the late nineteeth century, railroad jobs for black men were rare, but Sim fulfills his dream by working with Casey. One night, a mysterious gentleman offers Casey a train whistle made from Gabriel's trumpet. Casey can't resist, but Sim believes that blowing the whistle will bring the end of the world. How can he stop Casey Jones? Farmer eloquently interweaves history and myth into a suspenseful, engrossing drama, enhanced by well-developed characters, particularly Sim, an ordinary man challenged by extraordinary circumstances. Bernardin's lush, vibrant paintings are lovely and mystical, immersing readers in the early days of railroads. The combination makes for an unusual interpretation, a dark and thrilling journey in which naive overconfidence precludes a tragic downfall. A fascinating story, though some of its depictions may be too intense for some children. An author's note provides historical context. Shelle Rosenfeld

From Kirkus Reviews

What really happened on Casey Jones' legendary last run? Lured by a mysterious red-haired stranger who boasts a fabulous set of golden pipes (which comprise the train's whistle), Casey places a bet that the Cannonball can build up enough steam to make those pipes sing. Sim Webb, Casey's fireman and friend, suspects that these pipes were stolen from the angel Gabriel by the devil himself. Will their sounding trigger the end of the world? Other-worldly splashes of radiant gold highlight illustrations that picture Sim's youthful fascination with the railroad, his rise to fireman, the brilliantly lit interior of the engine, and finally the headlights of the Cannonball as it wends its fateful way through the mountains on its final journey. Children will relish this little-known piece of railroad lore, with its echoes of an epic battle being waged, and won. (Picture book. 4-8) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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