This post is participating in #KidBookBingo organised and hosted by @AnnalieseAvery on Twitter. Every day there is an opportunity to post a review of the book of the day.
There are times when a book comes into your life and it opens wondrous worlds leaving you changed.
The Train to Impossible Places is one of those books, the characters and settings, context and humour are all something that is truly magical, and enthralling and engaging and I cannot praise this book high enough and am already hungry for a sequel.
Eleven year old Suzy wakes in the middle of the night to find a railway being built in her hallway for the Train to Impossible Places carrying mail throughout the realms. This absolutely blows her logical thinking mind and her curiosity persuades her to jump aboard where an adventure unfolds across the realms of space and time involving towers, trolls, Lords and Ladies, bananas, a strong independent woman in the form of a blonde Bear, retired Postpersons, statues that move, a frog in a snow globe, The Fourth Bridge (not a spelling mistake), pirate ghosts and much more.
Suzy felt a fresh rush of embarrassment and, hot on its heels a surge of anger. She was so angry she could hear her blood singing in her ears. Perhaps her feelings showed on her face because Fletch began backing away from her towards the safety of the tent, his eyes widening.
Our protagonist Suzy is a real believable character, she’s not a stereotype identikit heroine. She’s not a manic pixie girl there for someone else’s epiphany, she’s gutsy, occasionally anxious, clever, and flawed and in a lovely nod to Hitchhikers, Suzy spends the entire book in her dressing gown and awful pink and yellow pyjamas sent by her Auntie from Mauritius.
Suzy ticks a lot of boxes for the kind of children’s literature we need to see today, she’s female, realistic, she loves physics so a female STEM (or maybe STEAM is more appropriate here!) role model and to boot she’s mixed race so a female BAME STEAM role model protagonist she is the girl so many children NEED to see in books regardless of their own gender or ethnicity, Suzy absolutely rocks.
“What did it say?” She said, with a pleading look towards Stonker.
He gave a knowing smile and his eyes twinkled again. “She said, she’s not an ‘it’ she’s a ‘She’ thank you very much. and it’s none of your business if she happens to prefer being blonde.’
What’s also beautiful is that all characters even peripheral have been lovingly built up and rounded with little hints of eccentricity and humour holding a mirror up to our own society much in homage to the manner Pratchett played with the people, places and culture of Discworld, I absolutely loved this book and the writing through and through if you couldn’t tell already.
PG Bell has done something rather wonderful in that he has created a magical, wry world that is at once familiar but is equally unique and beautifully creative.
The Train to Impossible Places delivers a post modern mash-up of The Magic Faraway Tree, Discworld with heaps of cult British humour to boot. It should be a must read for anyone with a sense of humour but especially any apparently grown-up who was raised on Blackadder, Only Fools and Horses and Terry Pratchett with a side order of Hitchhikers, Doctor Who, Lucas & Walliams taking flavours and nuances but without feeling like a clone or copy.
This book is one of those that will grab a reader and hopefully leave a little of its magic on them too and that is such an exciting and wondrous thing.
This book is a must read, buy it for your children to read aloud, to read themselves, to read yourselves, just please read it and please please please whilst it’s still available splurge out on the gorgeous hardback edition because the fully illustrated bound cover is a sight to behold.
And I cannot wait for the sequel The Great Brain Robbery to get into my hands!!!!
The Train to Impossible Places by PG Bell illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino is published by Usborne.