TRUE HEART by Marissa Moss


Age Range: 5 - 10
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A deeply satisfying story of longing and hard work fulfilled, inspired by an obscure historical photograph. Bee loves the railroad: the sound and color, the sweep past the wide world into the cities, the wonderful engine names, such as True Heart and the Coyote Special. When her parents die, she finds that, with eight siblings to care for, loading freight for the Union Pacific in Cheyenne in 1893 pays far better than taking in wash. She’s strong, and gets hired to load the trains. But what Bee loves most is to pepper Ole Pete, the engineer, with questions; he lets her drive the train a bit, back it up, and couple it to other cars. When Bee gets the chance to drive a train, she takes two of her female crew to stoke the engines, “blowing my whistle for all the sky to hear.” The language is homespun and direct, with Bee’s desire and love for the railroad clear. The text faces the full-page illustrations; occasional double-page spreads float the text on top of the image, as in one dramatic scene where ghostly wagon trains parallel the train on its run. The mixed media paintings have a burnished quality, while the textures are beautifully tactile. The text never mentions Bee’s gender, but Moss provides a note about her inspiration and preserves another tessera from the mosaic of women’s history. A rousing and romantic tale. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-15-201344-X
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999