From School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-In lyric, poetic language, Thomas describes the journey her family took from Oklahoma to their new home in California in 1948. Her story captures the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the experience. Reading her words aloud will transport listeners along with Thomas on the train trip: "We ride into late afternoon/past a snake whose body is a pen/writing calligraphy/on the paper-dry earth." Oil wash paintings depict the love the family shares and the young girl's excitement, as well as the bountiful fruits and vegetables growing in the sunny environment. The time period is reflected in the clothes, train, and cars. The author's note explains that her mother's illness was the impetus for the move, but the story itself does not explore that aspect. Instead, California is depicted as a paradise of racial diversity and economic prosperity. Nostalgic and sweet, Thomas's word images truly present a "land of milk and honey."-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From her viewpoint as a child, Thomas remembers her family’s migration from Oklahoma to California in 1948. Clear free verse captures the excitement of the journey—the steaming train, the hissing wheels, the long lonesome whistle—while Cooper’s beautiful unframed pastel artwork in sepia tones shows a puffing steam engine pulling a train and the young girl watching the passing landscape, including “a cactus raising / hairy arms to catch the / last light from the falling sun,” while her brothers play marbles in the crowded aisle. From the title on, everything about this story is upbeat: even the sweating migrant workers in their red bandannas “unbend their backs / to wave back.” Finally, the train reaches San Francisco, where huge ships sit anchored “like iron mountains.” In a long afterword, Thomas celebrates the Golden State, which is still her home. The personal words and pictures do a great job of celebrating diversity: “all ages, all races . . . harmony in ever-changing rhythms.” Preschool-Grade 3. --Hazel Rochman