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All Aboard!: Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine (Great Idea Series) Hardcover – August 10, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

K-Gr 3–An engaging biography of the African-American inventor. The son of former slaves who escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad, young McCoy was interested in how machines work. At age 16, he went to Scotland to study mechanical engineering. After his schooling was complete, he joined his family in Michigan, where he applied for work at the Michigan Central Railroad. He was offered a job oiling the train wheels and shoveling coal rather than building and designing engines. In need of employment, he accepted the “ashcat” position, and as he toiled away at the dangerous job, he realized that there had to be a safer way to keep the trains running. For two years, McCoy made drawings and eventually a model of an oil cup to supply lubrication to the moving parts of the engine. Wisely, he patented his invention and convinced his employer to give it a trial run. The train to Kalamazoo arrived at its destination in record time without having to stop to oil the engine machinery. The narrative includes fictionalized dialogue and clear explanations about how the machinery works and concludes with an inspiring message. “When Elijah got older, he encouraged children to stay in school and to follow their dreams too.” Expressive watercolors, some full page and some full spread, capture the time period, allowing readers to imagine what life was like in this era, and add energy and touches of humor.Linda L. Walkins, Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Brighton, MA
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Even as a young boy, Elijah McCoy was fascinated with machinery. Born in 1843 as one of 12 children, he was sent away at age 16 to learn mechanical engineering in Scotland by parents who themselves had escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad. Upon returning to the family home, Elijah got a job with the Michigan Central Railroad, not as an engineer as he hoped—because he was black—but as an “ashcat,” a man who “greased the pig” by feeding the firebox and oiling the engine. It was dirty and dangerous work, and at night Elijah spent hours working on drawings of experimental oil cups that would continuously grease a train’s engine. In 1872, he applied for a patent, the first of 57, and embarked upon a life of engine inventions. On the last page, the phrase “the real McCoy,” meaning the real thing, is explained: Elijah’s original oil cup. Pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations add whimsy to this entry in the Great Idea series, especially in facial expressions. Overall, this portrayal is more playful than The Real McCoy, by Wendy Towle (1993). Grades 1-3. --Julie Cummins
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 460L (What's this?)
  • Series: Great Idea Series
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Tundra Books; 1 edition (August 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887769454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887769450
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.4 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #965,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Reason for Reading: Taking my turn before handing it over for a bedtime read to my son, who is very much into inventors right now.

Lovely little first biography for picture book age children or older struggling readers who still like their books filled with illustrations. Of course, Elijah's life is told briefly and rapidly but it manages to hit upon all the major events of his life leading up to the invention of his oil cup which revolutionized steam travel. Not only do we get the facts of this young man's life, we also get insight into the era and the treatment of Blacks in the US and child labour in general. Canadian born Elijah, educated in Scotland, returned to his family now living back in the US, first meets up with a white man's disdain and ignorance as he tries to get a job designing train engines and ends up being an ashcat, the person who feeds the coal into the engine. Along with him is a small white boy, his "grease monkey" who keeps all the parts well oiled climbing under and over the engine in a dangerous job. These injustices though are what keep Elijah up at nights trying to figure out a way to fix the steam engine that causes their job to be so dangerous and tiresome, and for train travel to be so slow.

The writing is age appropriate and interesting and doesn't talk down to its audience giving a good clear picture of the process an engineer and inventor must go through. Slavin's illustrations are wonderful old-style paintings that fit the text perfectly. The story goes on to end with a small page telling where the phrase "the real McCoy" came from and how Elijah had a life filled with engine inventions and even some inventions that had nothing to do with engines, such as a portable ironing board. Young children will enjoy Elijah's story and older ones may be inspired to finding out more about him.
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By S Hughes on September 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
ALL ABOARD! ELIJAH McCOY'S STEAM ENGINE is another wonderful book in Monica Kulling's series about inventors. She brings a light humorous touch to a fascinating topic, the invention of the oil cup that oils the engine while the train is running. Her playful text is matched by Bill Slavin's whimsical illustrations. Girls and boys alike will be intrigued by the way Kulling captures the delight of the young Elijah who waits for his father's mowing machine to break and when it does, "he jumped for joy." Why? "Elijah was only six, but already he was good at tinkering with tools." And don't miss the beautiful poem with which Kulling begins the book, a lovely feature of each book in the series.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful story presented in gorgeous fashion. Kulling's prose is precise and vivid and her narrative beautifully paced. She deals with McCoy's family background (his parents were slaves who came to Ontario on the Underground Railroad; he faced racial discrimination when seeking his first job) with compact matter-of-factness. Kulling never minimizes the uncomfortable question of race, yet keeps McCoy's inventive genius at the centre of the story. The drama of McCoy's first real invention is genuinely suspenseful: will it work?

Slavin's illustrations are beautiful, moving, and wonderfully detailed - the sort to pore over for long minutes after the story's over. Overall, All Aboard! is a triumph.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a nice book for elementary school readers. The style and the pictures deserve a 5 star, but I give it a 4 because of price. I would still catergorize it as a picture book and you know how expensive hard back thin books are. I am sure most library systems around the country have this which is where I got the one I am reading. I am hoping to find one at a goodwill or salvation army for a buck because I really don't like spending a lot of money on books, especially children books.
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