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Across America on an Emigrant Train
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Gr. 5 and up. As he did in The Boys' War (1990) and The Long Road to Gettysburg (1992), Murphy draws on memoirs and letters to humanise history. This time his main source is the journal of the great writer Robert Louis Stevenson, who travelled in 1879 from Scotland to the woman he loved in California, first on a crowded boat and then on a series of crammed, painfully uncomfortable trains on the transcontinental railroad. Murphy weaves together Stevenson's perilous journey with a general history of the railroad--how it was planned and built, who built it, what it was like to ride it if you were rich and if you were poor, and how it changed the country and those who lived there. Murphy's style is plain: facts and feelings tell a compelling story of adventure and failure, courage and cruelty, enrichment and oppression. The handsome book's design includes lots of white space, two endpaper maps, and many prints, drawings, and black-and-white photographs, carefully captioned to make you pore over the details. The direct quotations from Stevenson show him as observer and participant. This was before he became famous, and he identifies with the emigrants' painful struggle as well as their hope. Murphy provides no direct documentation (often the source is "one passenger recalled," "some historians have speculated"), but the very long bibliography will be a starting point for those stimulated to read further. The experience of ordinary people revitalises the myths of the West. Hazel Rochman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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"A readable and valuable contribution to literature concerning expansion into the American West." School Library Journal, Starred "The 19th century's transcontinental railroads, explored via a delightfully effective narrative device: tracing the 1879 journey of Robert Louis Stevenson, who, at 29, was making an as-swift-as-possible journey from Edinburgh to Monterey, California. . . . A fascinating, imaginatively structured account that brings the experience vividly to life in all its detail: history at its best. Generously illustrated with period photos and prints; endpaper map; extensive bibliography, mostly of sources; index." Kirkus Reviews with Pointers "A readable and valuable contribution to literature concerning expansion into the American West." School Library Journal, Starred "The 19th century s transcontinental railroads, explored via a delightfully effective narrative device: tracing the 1879 journey of Robert Louis Stevenson, who, at 29, was making an as-swift-as-possible journey from Edinburgh to Monterey, California. . . . A fascinating, imaginatively structured account that brings the experience vividly to life in all its detail: history at its best. Generously illustrated with period photos and prints; endpaper map; extensive bibliography, mostly of sources; index." Kirkus Reviews with Pointers "A readable and valuable contribution to literature concerning expansion into the American West." School Library Journal, Starred"

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