Review: The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

boundless

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Will found his first adventure when he headed out into the wilderness on a train to see his father after the transcontinental railroad was completed.  Will not only got to witness the final golden spike being driven but got to finish driving it in himself!  After the ceremony though, disaster struck with an avalanche that took Will and his father along with it.  They survived despite the large amount of snow and being attacked by sasquatches.  Now a few years later, Will and his father are aboard the Boundless, the most amazing train ever created.  Will’s father is no longer a laborer, instead working as an engineer aboard the train where Will will be riding first class.  The train carries with it a circus as well as thousands of people riding in different classes.  But there is also danger aboard the train and it’s headed right for Will. 

Oppel, the author of Airborn, has created a great adventure aboard a marvelous train.  The train itself is incredible from its sheer size to the number of people aboard.  The descriptions of each class of the train are done with an attention to detail and to the feeling of each area, each one significantly different from the others.  This setting is richly drawn and used as a clever device to keep the plot moving and also to isolate Will and the others from help. 

Will is a fine protagonist.  He is brave, somewhat bored, artistically gifted and living a surprising life.  Through it all he shows a spunk and willingness to throw himself into life, exactly the thing that his father despairs of him ever having.  The other characters are also well drawn: the villains are horrifically awful, Will’s companions are complicated and have their own motivations that are revealed as the book progresses. 

This is top-notch adventure writing set on a moving train traveling across a world filled with monsters, many of which are human.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Review: The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

girl and the bicycle

The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

This follow up to The Boy and the Airplane features a girl who is longing for a new green bike that she sees in a shop window when walking with her little brother.  But she doesn’t have enough money for it, even after emptying her piggy bank, digging through pockets in the laundry and looking under the couch cushions.  She even tries selling lemonade and her toys.  That autumn, she has another idea to make money and finds someone willing to pay her for raking leaves.  She continues to do chores for them through the winter and into the next summer.  Finally, she has enough money for the bicycle.  But when she gets to the store, the bike is gone.  Don’t worry, her hard work will pay off in the end!

Pett has a touch for wordless picture books. The subtle humor throughout also helps make the book very readable and approachable for children.  They will relate to the longing for a new toy and through this book will learn about the power of resilience, hard work and patience. 

Pett’s subjects could easily veer into saccharine qualities, but that is nicely avoided thanks to his deft timing throughout the book and the way that the sweet endings come with real sacrifice and work on the part of the characters.  His illustrations have a vintage feel but also a modern cartoon aspect.  Done in sepia tones, the dark green of the bike pops clearly on the page. 

A wordless book for slightly older preschoolers, this book is a rewarding read.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.