Monday, July 5, 2010

On the Blue Comet

Rosemary Wells is known for her Max and Ruby picture books. However, come September she'll also be known as a middle grade author when Candlewick is releases On the Blue Comet.

Oscar Ogilvie lives with his father in Illinois. They lead a happy existence, working together on the model railroad set-up that overwhelms the basement. But the year is 1929 and when the stock market crashes and the Depression hits, Oscar's father is forced to sell the house and trains to travel to California to find work, leaving Oscar with his strict aunt and his younger cousin. Oscar manages to find some happiness when he visits his old trains at their new set-up in the bank. But when Oscar witnesses a robbery at the bank, the shock catapults him onto real versions of his beloved trains, and the beginning of his travels through time.

The historical backdrops of the novel may pass over the heads of some younger readers, but in the hands of the right teacher, the book could be used to examine an American child's life from the depression to WW II. And Wells has done her research. From period brand names to the mention of historical figures, On the Blue Comet is peppered with references to bygone times. Because of this, and the full-color illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane), I think On the Blue Comet is a wonderful book for grandparents to gift their grandchildren. Hopefully, we will see it sparking inter-generational dialogue, bringing to light additional tales that need to be told.

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