Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Summary: Kate’s life is basically satisfactory, but she sometimes feels like she’d like something more. When her mysterious Uncle Herbert appears on the morning of her eleventh birthday with a full-size steam engine named The Silver Arrow, she begins to understand that what has been missing is adventure and a sense of purpose. She and her younger brother Tom are sent on a journey around the world, picking up animals and transporting them to their natural habitats. As they get to know the animals and learn about the trouble they’re in, Kate and Tom realize their job to protect their new friends will extend long beyond their train trip. The journey proves difficult, and the two kids almost give up on it before it’s over, but in the end their persistence pays off. They’re happy to get home safely, but Uncle Herbert assures them their adventures have just begun…potentially paving the way for a sequel. 272 pages; grades 3-6.
Pros: This illustrated story hits the sweet spot for third and fourth graders, who will love the two kids, their adventures, and all the animals–and the train, which can communicate and becomes an important character as well. The environmental message is nicely embedded into the story and could lead to some interesting discussions. This would make a great read-aloud or book club selection.
Cons: Tracy Nishimura Bishop’s illustrations add a lot to the story, but she’s not credited on either the cover or the back flap.