Train I Ride by Paul Mosier

Published by HarperCollins

Summary:  Rydr is traveling from California to Chicago, and toward an unknown future.  Traveling as an unaccompanied minor, she wears a nametag reading “Rider”, and that’s the name she uses on her trip (part way through the book, she changes the spelling).  As the journey goes on, Rydr slowly reveals her past.  Her mother was a drug addict who tried to raise her daughter, but had to frequently send her to live with her grandmother in California.  Ryder discovered her mother dead of an overdose, then a short time later, she was the one to find her grandmother’s body.  A great uncle in Chicago whom she has never met is the only person keeping her out of foster care. On the train, she feels safe, befriending Dorothea, the Amtrak employee assigned to look after her, and Neal, the snack bar attendant.  She has a bit of a romance with a boy from a scout troop traveling on the same train.  By the end of the trip, she is ready to spread her mother’s ashes, with the help of Dorothea and Neal, and she has made some discoveries about who she is and how she can create her own future.  192 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  A beautifully written novel about a girl who has seen too much in her 13 years, but has gained a wisdom and strength which will hopefully serve her well moving into an unknown future.

Cons:  This book is recommended for third or fourth grade and up, but there’s some pretty mature subject matter for most elementary students.

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