The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781526629418.
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Eleven year old Kate and her younger brother Tom embark on a remarkable adventure in a magical steam train aptly named The Silver Arrow. In Kate's mind her life so far is mundane and boring as her parents are busy with work and she feels it is time for something interesting to happen so she contacts her wealthy Uncle Herbert and asks for a present. Uncle Herbert delivers a steam train much to the horror of Kate and Tom's sensible parents and they are forbidden to climb on it. However as children do, they ignore their parents and are whisked away for the adventure of a life time. Along the journey they collect an assortment of talking animals who are waiting patiently at train stations in a variety of continually changing landscapes and environments. The steam train is their teacher while they are on the journey and encourages the children to solve each problem thoughtfully as it arises, as well as managing the roles of the driver, conductor and carrying out maintenance on the train. Both Kate and Tom show surprising resilience and perseverance to overcome some challenging situations and they learn to work as a team. The animals befriended by Kate and Tom finally admit that they are running away from humans who have destroyed their habitats and they are on the brink of extinction. The children form a close bond with the animals and grow to understand how dangerous the human world is for them.
This is the first children's novel written by author Lev Grossman who is well known for his Magician's trilogy. In The Silver Arrow he has created a wonderful world of magic and fantasy where animals have an opinion and are listened to, where two young siblings overcome dangerous situations and learn to be kind to each other, as well as realising the adult world is fraught with complications. An exciting and action-packed read which young readers who love to escape into imaginary worlds will appreciate and enjoy. Themes: Adventure, Magic, Endangered Animals, Steam Trains, Siblings, Fantasy.