- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Scholastic (November 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0439555337
- ISBN-13: 978-0439555333
- Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 39 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,858,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Great Railroad Race: The Diary of Libby West Hardcover – November 1, 2003
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About the Author
*** NEW Free study guides written by the author: www.kristianagregory.com *** Kristiana Gregory has published more than 30 children's books with Scholastic, Harcourt and Holiday House, and has now ventured into self-publishing with her memoir "Longhand: The Rise and Fall and Rise of My Career as a Children's Book Author." She grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, two blocks from the beach and she always loved to make up stories. Her first rejection letter at age eleven was for a poem she wrote in class when she was supposed to be doing a math assignment. She's had a myriad of odd jobs: telephone operator, lifeguard, camp counselor, reporter, book reviewer & columnist for the LA Times. Kristiana and her husband live in Idaho with their golden retriever, Poppy. Their two adult sons visit often. In her spare time she loves to swim, hike, watch clouds, do yoga, read & hang out with friends. For all her titles, please visit her website: www.kristianagregory.com --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Another wonderful Dear America book - this one covers the race to connect the opposite ends of the country with a single railroad. Our narrator here is the daughter of an intrepid journalist, who hopes to strike it at least semi-rich by being one of the few to cover the story first-hand. While I recommend the Dear America series for both children and adults, I recognize that the series is primarily marketed towards young children, and I will follow my usual reviewing pattern for marking out things a parent might wish to be fore-warned about.
There's wonderful history to be had here, and the first-hand account of watching the railroad being built is wonderful. The narrator details the cooperation between former Union and Confederate soldiers, and treats with fairness and dignity the situations of the American Indians (who are being displaced by the railroad) and the Chinese immigrants (who are working under harsh conditions to build the railroad). The hasty and sometimes slip-shod manner in which the railroad is assembled is highlighted and the reader will marvel that the end product worked at all. Also much appreciated here is the strong characterization of the narrator's mother - she insists that the entire family will travel with her wanderlust-driven husband, and that is that. It is later revealed that she knows as much about the printing and editing of a newspaper as her worthy husband, and the two make a good team out on the frontier, a welcome change from the standard "mother does the housework and not much else" theme often found in historical literature.
Some things which may not be age appropriate for all children include the death of a small boy who places a penny on the rail tracks only to be killed by the high velocity of the shooting penny when the train strikes it. This is also one of the most 'sexually explicit' of the Dear America novels I have read - the narrator and her friend sneak into the bad part of one of the shanty towns one night and are accosted by drunk men who want to force them to 'dance'. It is only by kicking their way free that the girls are able to escape, and they are very frightened by the experience. Also, Mormons are heavily featured in this installment, with the narrator spending a good deal of time in Salt Lake City and meeting Brigham Young. Our narrator is very interested in how a man can have multiple wives, and she is very distressed to learn that several of her female cousins have entered into plural marriages. She also meets a few Mormon girls her age who wish to be friends. Children may share the narrator's confusion about this complicated issue.
There is one slightly odd thing about this story. A character named "Pete" is featured; Pete is a bearded, stinky old man who lives with the narrator and her family. He served in the war with her father and saved his life and now lives alone with the family, rarely speaking unless spoken to. When the narrator decides to be kind to Pete, in spite of his stench and ugly looks, Pete shaves his beard and suddenly becomes a very attractive, charming nineteen-year-old. This magical Beauty and the Beast transformation is extremely disconcerting to the reader, if not to the narrator (her adjustment to this new love interest takes a mere 24 hours). Pete has been living with the family under frontier conditions with very little privacy for clothing changes, bodily functions, and basic attempts at washing, and it does seem strange that the 15-year-old narrator wasn't cautioned by her otherwise prudent mother that Pete was quite a bit closer to her age than she had realized. It isn't, I suppose, a big deal, but I found it very odd, and parents may as well.
~ Ana Mardoll
Libby had met a girl where she was. The girl was rich but friendly. Libby liked her. The two girls' parents became friends. The girl that Libby met was from the same school as Libby and she had seen her before. The girl Libby met lives in a mansion.
The two girls were not allowed to enter the town right next to where they were. They wanted to no why but their parents wouldn't tell them. They decided to figure it out themselves. That both girls sneaked out of their houses and walked over to the town. They heard noises but it was to dark to see anything. So they went a little closer and all of a sudden they were grabbed by two guys and drug into a room where there was loud music and many people singing and dancing. Libby was taken in a back room by the guy that grabbed her. Both of the girls were scared. A little while later they got away and took off running. Then Libby's dad heard them scream. He came running. He promised he wouldn't tell their mothers. They went home.
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Libby's father, a newspaper reporter, decides to travel west with the growing Union Pacific Railroad, for the chance to publish his own newspaper. Libby's mother refuses to stay behind in Denver, however, so the whole family goes along.
The story of Libby's time out west was very descriptive and interesting to read, with her making new friends, falling in love with her father's assistant, and helping her family. It was also pretty humorous at times! :)
I'd definitely recommend this book for ages 11 and up, to anyone who likes history, romance, adventure, or just a great read! Be sure to also read the "Dear America" books "Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie" and "West to a Land of Plenty", and also the "My Name is America" book "The Journal of Sean Sullivan".