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Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World

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Prior to the 1800s, ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean relied on the wind in their sails to make their journeys. But the invention of steam power ushered in a new era of transportation that would change ocean travel forever: the steamship. Author-illustrator David Macaulay guides readers through the history that culminated in the building of the most advanced—and last—of the Prior to the 1800s, ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean relied on the wind in their sails to make their journeys. But the invention of steam power ushered in a new era of transportation that would change ocean travel forever: the steamship. Author-illustrator David Macaulay guides readers through the history that culminated in the building of the most advanced—and last—of these steamships: the SS United States. This book explores the design and construction of the ship and the life of its designer and engineer, William Francis Gibbs.


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Prior to the 1800s, ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean relied on the wind in their sails to make their journeys. But the invention of steam power ushered in a new era of transportation that would change ocean travel forever: the steamship. Author-illustrator David Macaulay guides readers through the history that culminated in the building of the most advanced—and last—of the Prior to the 1800s, ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean relied on the wind in their sails to make their journeys. But the invention of steam power ushered in a new era of transportation that would change ocean travel forever: the steamship. Author-illustrator David Macaulay guides readers through the history that culminated in the building of the most advanced—and last—of these steamships: the SS United States. This book explores the design and construction of the ship and the life of its designer and engineer, William Francis Gibbs.

30 review for Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Pretty much all of the technical part of this book (in other words, most of it), about how steam engines and turbines work glided painlessly over my head. But I loved the framing story, and I really, really love ocean liners. Why? They're just neat, and really big. I enjoyed learning about the SS United States, and am trying to decide how worthwhile it might be to visit the Ikea in Philadelphia, from the cafe of which you get a view of pier 82 where the Atlantic crossing record holder has been q Pretty much all of the technical part of this book (in other words, most of it), about how steam engines and turbines work glided painlessly over my head. But I loved the framing story, and I really, really love ocean liners. Why? They're just neat, and really big. I enjoyed learning about the SS United States, and am trying to decide how worthwhile it might be to visit the Ikea in Philadelphia, from the cafe of which you get a view of pier 82 where the Atlantic crossing record holder has been quietly disintegrating for the last twenty years.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    I'm not finished yet, but this is awesome! It starts with the Macaulay family preparing to emigrate to the US from the UK in the 50s. Then we go back to the difficulty of pumping out mines and follow the development of the steam engine and the incremental improvements to the technology over time. Then we get the history of steamships in general, the importance of speed and safety in international shipping, and then the detailed construction of the United States, the ship the Macaulays sailed on. I'm not finished yet, but this is awesome! It starts with the Macaulay family preparing to emigrate to the US from the UK in the 50s. Then we go back to the difficulty of pumping out mines and follow the development of the steam engine and the incremental improvements to the technology over time. Then we get the history of steamships in general, the importance of speed and safety in international shipping, and then the detailed construction of the United States, the ship the Macaulays sailed on. The net result is captivating: you get to look at so much that it kind of feels like a Seek and Find with a point. The fold-out of the completed ship is one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Macaulay's work has always been very pleasing, but if you'd asked a week ago I wouldn't have said I was particularly interested in engines, how they work, or shipbuilding. Obviously, it's going to be a hit with anyone who does already have an interest in those. But these pictures are worth more than any number of words: concepts which aren't easily explained in words become perfectly clear and comprehensible in these layouts. Possibly more when I finish, but if not, I highly recommend the book. Everyone will find something in here to enjoy. *** Finished. Lots of good backmatter, for those who care. Library copy

  3. 5 out of 5

    KC

    A detailed look at how steam engines are made and their use.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maeve

    So boring.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Stunning illustrations, as always, from David Macaulay. I loved the story of William Gibbs and the framing story of the Macaulay family moving to the United States but will admit reading most of the more technical, engineering parts with glassy eyes. However, my more more engineering minded son loved those parts. I read for the history, he read for the engineering.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC from Edelweiss Plus This was very lovely, and while I am personally enthralled by steam ships and transatlantic crossings, I just don't see this ever being checked out. Macaulay's Motel of the Mysteries (1979) is still one of my all time favorites, but it never circulates. A must for public libraries.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mary Hollowell

    David Macaulay's new children's book CROSSING ON TIME is best for its autobiographic sections. It also shows the details of a 20th Century transatlantic cruise ship, from top to bottom, and it is drawn in his characteristic pen & ink and watercolor wash. The multiple perspectives are interesting, from overhead looking down to beneath the waves looking up. (As someone, who used to snorkel and scrape barnacles from the keels of boats, I especially appreciate the latter.) Page 94 shows the scope of David Macaulay's new children's book CROSSING ON TIME is best for its autobiographic sections. It also shows the details of a 20th Century transatlantic cruise ship, from top to bottom, and it is drawn in his characteristic pen & ink and watercolor wash. The multiple perspectives are interesting, from overhead looking down to beneath the waves looking up. (As someone, who used to snorkel and scrape barnacles from the keels of boats, I especially appreciate the latter.) Page 94 shows the scope of the ship, from alongside, with a bellowing smokestack. This reference book is intriguing and will reach a wide audience.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    David Macaulay, author and illustrator of Pyramid and The Way Things Work, has written a combination autobiographical work about his immigration to the US from Britain in 1957 at the age of 10 and his examination of the steamship, the SS United States, that he traveled on to America. This title is divided into 4 sections, the first, a history of steamships including the inventions that led to the steamship, the second, biographical information about the Gibbs brothers, the designers of the ship, David Macaulay, author and illustrator of Pyramid and The Way Things Work, has written a combination autobiographical work about his immigration to the US from Britain in 1957 at the age of 10 and his examination of the steamship, the SS United States, that he traveled on to America. This title is divided into 4 sections, the first, a history of steamships including the inventions that led to the steamship, the second, biographical information about the Gibbs brothers, the designers of the ship, the SS United States, the third, the actual designing and building of the ship, and the fourth, Macaulay's immigration to the United States. Ocean liners who received the honor of the Blue Riband award, given to the fastest westbound ocean liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a given year, a complete 6 page pull out cross section diagram of the SS United States, and a comparison of ocean liners beside the Empire State Building (laid out prone on its side) are just a few of the remarkable images in the book. Each page is filled with meticulous drawings, diagrams, and photographs to engage the reader. An afterword, timeline, and selected reading complete the volume. At 127 pages, the title can be read in one sitting. Macaulay's remembrances of his childhood are poignant with his favorite books from childhood and infatuation with the Empire State Building. Another superb title by Macaulay.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    I love how this book must have begun for David Macaulay. When he was young, his mother, his brother and he rode on the ship the United States. It was a steamship that became one of the fastest of its time. Starts by telling us that he is going on the voyage and then heads back in time to the beginning of steam engine technology. As he builds the story he shares very detailed information about how the technology progressed, what was still needed, and how it changed our culture, especially in the I love how this book must have begun for David Macaulay. When he was young, his mother, his brother and he rode on the ship the United States. It was a steamship that became one of the fastest of its time. Starts by telling us that he is going on the voyage and then heads back in time to the beginning of steam engine technology. As he builds the story he shares very detailed information about how the technology progressed, what was still needed, and how it changed our culture, especially in the area of transportation. As in all of Macaulay's books, this one offers amazing pictures with detailed diagrams and clear explanations of how things work. While he talks about many different ships, he focuses on the United States and its designers, the Gibbs brothers. As steamships are not necessarily my area of interest at this depth, I did feel it felt a little lengthy in the explanation of the building of the United States, but overall it kept my interest about a topic I knew little about and had not previously thought I was interested in. I could definitely see recommending this book to students as a great read and/or a great mentor text for informational writing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    This one made me feel as though I was exploring every inch of the SS United States, and some of the technical details were over my head. Reading this book, a delightfully-detailed and impeccably- illustrated depiction of the history of steamships, made me think about how long it took to travel from one part of the world to the next while relying on wind power and what an amazing advancement this was. Author/Illustrator David Macaulay bookends all the historical information with his own family's This one made me feel as though I was exploring every inch of the SS United States, and some of the technical details were over my head. Reading this book, a delightfully-detailed and impeccably- illustrated depiction of the history of steamships, made me think about how long it took to travel from one part of the world to the next while relying on wind power and what an amazing advancement this was. Author/Illustrator David Macaulay bookends all the historical information with his own family's 1957 journey from Southampton to New York aboard the steamship, making the facts more personal while also providing readers a glimpse into the curious young boy he was at the time. Readers can imagine him pouring over the ship's inner workings and being fascinated by it all. While the book won't appeal to every reader, for those fascinated by what makes things work and innovations that have changed the way we travel, this one will be hard to pry from their clutches. The amount of research that resulted in the painstakingly-intricate drawings must have taken years. Clearly, this is one of those beautiful obsessions of Macaulay--and his fans are all the better for it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Margie

    As children we perceive the world through a lens acutely aware of details others might miss but our point of view of life on a larger scale is limited by our resources and experiences. There have probably been moments in most of our lives when we were unaware of being involved in something destined for the annuals of history. It is only when we are adults, looking back on the decades of our lives, that we realize with astonishment and a little bit of awe how what was ordinary was built on the ex As children we perceive the world through a lens acutely aware of details others might miss but our point of view of life on a larger scale is limited by our resources and experiences. There have probably been moments in most of our lives when we were unaware of being involved in something destined for the annuals of history. It is only when we are adults, looking back on the decades of our lives, that we realize with astonishment and a little bit of awe how what was ordinary was built on the extraordinary. In his most recent book, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World (Roaring Brook Press, May 5, 2019) David Macaulay writes and illustrates about innovations, a lifetime dream fulfilled and one family's emigration to the United States. The evolution of steam engines and their use in transportation is deftly woven into the work of William Francis Gibbs and the building of the SS United States. Readers are entranced by accomplishments of multiple individuals, inspired by the perseverance of one man and thrilled to discover how these are tied to David Macaulay and his boyhood. My full recommendation: https://librariansquest.blogspot.com/...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mike Violano

    Crossing On Time is a treasured trip back in time to when immigrants came to America on steamships just like my Italian grandparents. Author and master illustrator David Macaulay explains much in this marvelous book. He details in wonderful illustrations the history of steamships and the advances that made ocean travel faster, safer and more luxurious. It is difficult to categorize this book-- it is an wonderful illustrated children's book, an art book, it provides lots of ship engineering facts Crossing On Time is a treasured trip back in time to when immigrants came to America on steamships just like my Italian grandparents. Author and master illustrator David Macaulay explains much in this marvelous book. He details in wonderful illustrations the history of steamships and the advances that made ocean travel faster, safer and more luxurious. It is difficult to categorize this book-- it is an wonderful illustrated children's book, an art book, it provides lots of ship engineering facts and detail, and concludes with a heartfelt memoir of an ocean voyage by a 10 year old boy on the way to reunite with his father in America. There are many fantastic art pieces especially a 6 page fantastic foldout of the USS America with all the call outs of guests and crew who lived and worked where. I'm probably a biased reviewed because I've been a long time time fan and reader of Macauley for decades. The ship still lives docked in a Philadelphia harbor in search of resurrection as a museum.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    David Macaulay does it again - a fabulous book on a very complicated piece of mechanical wonder. This book deserves an award! Macaulay has a way of not only illustrating his work (one can see the years of architectural study in his drawings) but also writing in such a way that a 5th grader could understand it. And if a 5th grader could understand it, then an adult like me could too. I only wish my dad was still with us to read this book. He would have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the history David Macaulay does it again - a fabulous book on a very complicated piece of mechanical wonder. This book deserves an award! Macaulay has a way of not only illustrating his work (one can see the years of architectural study in his drawings) but also writing in such a way that a 5th grader could understand it. And if a 5th grader could understand it, then an adult like me could too. I only wish my dad was still with us to read this book. He would have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the history of steam engines and fast ships! As I was reading, the illustrations and reading kept building until I turned to page 86. Oh Wow! Pages 87 through 94 include a full layout on 6 pages of the US United States! Talk about fun! I loved the drawings of the rooms and imagining what the characters in those rooms were doing. Macaulay transported me into a luxury liner and had me imagining what life at that time must have been like. And then... he goes on to tell about his family's history on it. What a book! Keep reading to the very end. I don't want to spoil the last few pages. All I can say is WOW! What a great book. I see why it took years to write. Good job!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    This fascinating story of the development of steam engines is told against the backdrop of David Macaulay’s personal narrative of his family’s trip across the ocean from England to America in 1957 at age eight, and it concludes as his family settles into their new home in a New Jersey neighborhood where this “foreign land became home.” Historical information is accompanied by detailed drawings and schematics of pumps and pistons, early steam engines, steam-powered paddleboats, river steamboats, This fascinating story of the development of steam engines is told against the backdrop of David Macaulay’s personal narrative of his family’s trip across the ocean from England to America in 1957 at age eight, and it concludes as his family settles into their new home in a New Jersey neighborhood where this “foreign land became home.” Historical information is accompanied by detailed drawings and schematics of pumps and pistons, early steam engines, steam-powered paddleboats, river steamboats, compound engines, steam turbines, and the building of the SS United States (the ship the Macaulay family sailed on). Back matter includes an afterword with Macaulay’s nostalgic look at how his past has twined with transportation advances, a timeline (from 1497-2011) detailing pivotal events in the history of steam engines and transportation, and a reading list.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peg

    Macaulay weaves his own story into this book, scattered between all the fantastic drawings and technological explanations one expects in his books. He traces the development of the steam engine through the building and sailing of the United States, the ship on which Macaulay and his family crossed the Atlantic to make their home in America. His early and continuing obsession with and first reaction to the Empire State Building help frame the story. Readers can read this book several ways and on Macaulay weaves his own story into this book, scattered between all the fantastic drawings and technological explanations one expects in his books. He traces the development of the steam engine through the building and sailing of the United States, the ship on which Macaulay and his family crossed the Atlantic to make their home in America. His early and continuing obsession with and first reaction to the Empire State Building help frame the story. Readers can read this book several ways and on several levels. In any case, they most likely will return to the drawings multiple times. Personally, I loved the pages showing the building of the United States, rising from nothing!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    Read for Mock Caldecott Awards voting. This was an extremely interesting book about the history of ships and how they eventually became the passenger liners of today. There is a wealth of illustrations and explanations to keep a curious youngster busy for days absorbing it all if they are truly interested. My favorite part of the book was the last part which details the voyage the author, as a child) and his family made on a "modern" ocean liner when he came to America.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Brehl

    It’s no surprise when a book by David Macaulay captivates and astounds with the detail and depth of research and rendering. This is no different, but I found it an especially exciting a new source for the way in which it integrates the personal memories of author/illustrator with hisTory, science, engineering, and inspiration. This belongs on many classroom and library shelves but also on many holiday shopping lists.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kifflie

    David Macaulay gives us a history of steam engines and steam ships, and then focuses on the decades-long design, development, and building of the United States. His illustrations are very detailed -- including a huge splash page cross-section of the entire finished ship. The technical information was a little over my head, but I did enjoy the human aspect that Macaulay gave to this telling -- his own family emigrated to America on that very ship.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Erica Deb

    I can imagine technical kids and those who like nonfiction enjoying this. There is a lot of information about the history of steam engines and boats and it is nicely illustrated. The memoir piece is what was lacking for me. It was an interesting story but it wasn’t fully fleshed out and it’s placement within the story wasn’t fluid. Also the last page was a bland some up to the book. I just think this book could have been done better.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Billy

    What a great book. Very informative but not overly involved explanations on both the evolution of steam engines and passenger liners, culminating in the author's personal Atlantic crossing on S.S. United States. Well illustrated with some sly humor interjected. The highlight is the large pull-out with a cut-away drawing of S.S. United States. Highly recommended for kids and adults interested in ships and engines.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Macaulay makes this story his own as he demonstrates steam engines in ships through every step of building the S.S. United States, one of the last large passenger vessels and the one he and his family took when they immigrated to the U.S. in 1957. Wow! Wisely, the design team engineered a beautiful fold-out with all sorts of details and number guides to help us.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    A great, short book about the development of steamships and, specifically, the building of the S.S. United States, upon which the author (David Macaulay) sailed as a young boy as an emigrant from Great Britain to the U.S. Excellent hand-drawn illustrations by the author.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    An excellent history and homage to the grand old lady of the seas, the “United States”. The additional detailed look at the early history of steamships is also highly informative. Once the “United States” opens as a hotel/museum I know where I’ll be spending my next vacation.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nick Van

    A lovely book, informative as every Macaulay book, with a touch of his own personal story. A worthy addition to his collection of works.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lynne Marie

    So much effort went into this book in both text and art.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Amazing coverage of steamship history anchored in personal histories. Should be short - listed for the caldecott!!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    Fascinating look at the craft of building an ocean liner. The comparisons to the author's family's journey was delightful.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Wonderful book on the building of the United States, a huge ship that crossed in the Atlantic in the 1950s. Interesting details and amazing pictures.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

    Macaulay's usual excellence, with the added interest of a personal story.

  30. 4 out of 5

    N

    The illustrations in this were amazing. I would have especially loved them as a child and would have spent hours and hours looking at the giant, fold-out cross-section of the ship.

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