Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Train to Impossible Places

The Train to Impossible Places
by P.G. Bell
Recommended Ages: 10+

One night, Suzy is awakened by a noise from downstairs and discovers a small troll named Fletch laying a railroad in her family's front hall. Then a magical mail train shows up, and the walls and ceiling move out of the way. Unwilling to let Fletch wipe her memory, Suzy hops on the train and takes off on an adventure through the Impossible Places of the world, from the Obsidian Tower of a terrifying witch to a whole troll city, hanging underneath a bridge across a bottomless chasm. She agrees to become a postie (postal carrier) on board the Impossible Postal Express, which is powered by exploding bananas and can go anywhere from the bottom of the ocean to the hollow center of the moon. But her adventure gets off to a troubling start when she steals the first package she's supposed to deliver.

In Suzy's defense, the package asked her to steal it. It looks like a snow globe containing a ceramic frog, but actually it's a boy named Frederick who claims to have information that could save the world. Unfortunately, that awful witch is chasing them from one direction, and the curator of the world's largest library is after him from the other. Armed soldiers, animated statues, pirate ghosts and an old trolls' home full of retired posties get involved, too. Meanwhile, Suzy struggles with a moral quandary, realizing that whatever she does, it will involve betraying one of her new friends.

This book is way out there. It's funny, bizarre and kooky. It opens up not just one world, but a whimsical network of worlds held together by "fuzzics." It challenges a literal-minded, rational girl to open her mind to magical possibilities. It generates warmth, suspense, excitement, surprise, sympathy and some chilling dread. You worry about what choices Suzy is going to make and whether there's any way for her to make it all right. And you'll look forward to a return visit.

This is the first children's book by a Welsh author who has also written two sequels, The Great Brain Robbery and, expected in 2021, The World That Wasn't There.

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