cover image True Heart

True Heart

Marissa Moss. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201344-8

Moss (Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl; Amelia's Notebook) uses her flair for capturing girls' voices to tell a remarkable and exhilarating story. A turn-of-the-century photograph of an all-women work crew for a railroad inspired this tale of a teenager's first time driving a train, an experience that launches her career as an engineer. Newly orphaned in 1893, 16-year-old Bee takes a job loading freight on the railways to support her eight siblings. Moss evokes the love of trains that keeps Bee in the engineer's cab every spare moment, watching and asking questions, and her joy at driving for the first time, when an injured engineer and a trainful of impatient passengers pressure the station manager to give her a chance. On the final spread, Bee recalls that inaugural experience: ""I felt so free and strong, galloping across whole states in my iron horse, blowing my whistle for all the sky to hear."" For his first children's book, Payne uses mixed media in a crisp, realistic style. He so meticulously defines the action that the illustrations seem frozen in time, oddly tranquil: unexpected angles and tight close-ups create arresting compositions. This book will be welcomed by a wide audience: train lovers, frontier buffs, all girls--and any adult who, like Bee, can ""remember wanting something so much you can't think of anything else."" Ages 5-9. (Mar.)