Review 5 star
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The Freight Train in the Sky is a sweet, easy-to-read chapter book for children. Author Holden Russell introduces young readers to an orphan named Paul, who lives with nuns in an orphanage because his parents died as a result of widespread disease. Although well cared for, Paul feels lonely and has never fully faced the grief of losing his parents. He channels his emotions into a fascination with the stars and with mythology. After studying constellations and myths through books, he sees a shooting star and goes on a journey through the constellations on a train run by a benevolent spirit man called the Conductor. And Paul soon finds the heavenly realms hold something he could never have hoped to wish for.
The Freight Train in the Sky is a beautifully told narrative. Lightly floating sentences and expert storytelling created some amazing visual images that made me feel like I was watching a good animated movie. I got really got entranced by Holden’s Russell’s superficially simple, but emotionally very charged tale. The adventure aspect is just what beginning readers and their parents look for in a fantasy story as the majestic legendary figures like Hercules and Sagittarius help Paul learn (my favorite was the episode onboard the Argo) and the inclusion of Paul’s family in his journey injects a vein of elemental pagan dignity that will help children understand why ancient peoples told stories about the constellations. A solid book that uses mythology as its basis, The Freight Train in the Sky was very enjoyable.
Review 5 star
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Small Forgotten Moments by Annalisa Crawford is a work of literary fiction about a young woman named Jo Mckye who is an artist in London and suffers from severe amnesia. She can’t remember much about her past before the last three years. She doesn’t know how her current friends, Nathan and Lily, came to be in her life. But she does have a recollection that her mother lives in Cornwall—and then there’s Zenna, a girl she paints and sketches over and over again. All of her art is about Zenna. Jo has constant nightmares about this artwork too, and they’re getting worse. At an exhibit of her art, she meets a former boyfriend who she doesn’t even recall dating and she knows something is seriously wrong. She returns to her mother’s home where the truth about Zenna awaits. Zenna was a real person and Jo has been doing everything in her power to forget about her.
Annalisa Crawford’s story is intense in emotion and does a good job of taking suspense in an intellectual direction. It links a strong mystery plot with a mesmerizing level of detail into Jo’s mind because the mystery she has to solve is about herself. While it’s a big challenge for Jo to be a detective when the clues are all embedded in her literally mind-numbing lack of memory, it’s a delight for a reader to be swept along in this story. It’s both poignant and action-packed. I couldn’t put this book down because the creepy, fascinating world of someone who has undergone hypnotherapy in order to forget a tragedy—and then is slowly having her memories resurface—was so compelling and well shown. A talented work of fiction, Small Forgotten Moments builds minute-by-minute tension to a gripping conclusion as Jo’s confused, yet assertive personality swirls from the pages much like the vividly described art of Zenna that she creates.
Review 4 Star
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Sir_Scrap Metal is a children’s chapter book written and illustrated by Joan Dee Wilson. It’s about a robot named Sir_12.80 who is adopted by three children—two brothers, Mike, and Brady, and their younger sister Dree. The high-tech spy robot has just been mysteriously thrown from a helicopter while on a mission. He works for Agent Rouso of the Animal Preservation Agency. After being adopted and renamed Sir Scrap Metal by the children, the intelligent robot learns a new experience—that of belonging to a family instead of being only a sophisticated tool for the agency. And together they might just help Sir’s boss, Agent Rouso, find the animal smuggler he’s been looking for.
A cute and appealing book, Sir_Scrap Metal is loaded with the kinds of authentic daily details that young children enjoy, like glasses falling off and little kittens in peril. The story is perfect for family read-aloud by pretty much everyone, adults or kids, as the clear, swift-moving narrative shows the viewpoints of characters at a variety of ages. There is a lot of opportunity to have fun making little voices and accents for the characters, especially Sir Scrap Metal, whose stiff and austere diction is a strong point of the dialogue and always excellent. There’s a mystery plot that keeps the action loosely structured, but the core of the book is its simple, sweet message about a lonely mechanized creature who finds a place to feel cherished. Sir Scrap Metal is a stray who responds to the love of children in a heartwarming story that made me want to read more by Joan Dee Wilson.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.