On the Blue Comet(CD)Lib(Unabr.) Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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Ibatoulline's full-color, atmospheric Norman Rockwell-like vignettes enhance the nostalgic feel of this warm, cleverly crafter adventure.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Rosemary Wells has written or illustrated more than sixty books for children and has received numerous awards. She is the creator of the beloved Max and Ruby stories; the co-author (with Secundino Fernandez) of My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood, illustrated by Peter Ferguson; the author of Lincoln and His Boys, illustrated by P.J. Lynch; and the illustrator of My Very First Mother Goose, edited by Iona Opie. She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Top Customer Reviews
Oscar Ogilvie lives in the early 1930's. It is Christmas Eve, 1931 to be exact when the action starts to take place in the book. But a bit earlier than this we get to know Oscar and his dad who have a passion for model train collecting and have spend hours in their basement working with their layout. Oscar's dad doesn't do too badly with his job at John Deere and they have accumulated a nice set of Lionel trains. But the crash of '29 hits and eventually his dad loses his job, sells the house and the train set, goes to California to find work and leaves Oscar behind with his prim and proper spinster sister. Then on the evening in question, Oscar is visiting the nightwatchman at the bank, a friend, who lets him play with the train layout on display there, the one that used to be his. On that fateful night the bank is robbed and Oscar jumps for his life into the miniature train layout to find himself in the future where he works his way to join his father in California. Only Oscar is now 21 years old and the date is 1941 and he's been missing, presumed kidnapped all these years. As Oscar tries to get back home to 1931, he takes a side trip to 1926 where he is only 6 years old.
This was a fun book. Oscar is a quick thinking character and an enjoyable one to know. Even though he gets himself into this mess to start with he is generally a nice boy with good intentions who prays Hail Marys when things become too intense for him to handle.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Violence: Oscar's mother is killed in an explosion. Two armed men with guns break into the bank to rob it. They blindfold the watchman and hit him over the head. They shoot their guns and try to catch Oscar but Oscar escapes. The robbers shoot the watchman in the head and in the heart. There is blood everywhere. Oscar remembers the robbery throughout the book, a little more detail each time. Cyril tries to capture Oscar.
Adult Themes: There is smoking and drinking by adults. Oscar (as a child in a young adult body) thinks he could at least ask for a beer. Reference is made to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of the war. The stock market crash and the depression that followed are also touched on. Oscar's father loses his job and their house. Oscar has to live with his aunt.
Oscar lives with his Dad in a home in Illinois. Together they enjoy the hobby of putting together model train sets. Then the stock market crashes and Oscar's dad loses his job, their house and their beloved train set. When Oscar's dad leaves in search of work, Oscar is forced to live with his aunt who is a stern and cold lady. Oscar meets a stranger one day who becomes a real friend to him. The stranger teaches him poems and helps him with his math. Then one day Oscar witnesses a horrible crime that begins a series of time-hopping events on train called the Blue Comet. This time hopping takes Oscar on adventures where he meets new people, gains valuable information and helps change the course of some events for his family.
I enjoyed reading this book. I received a copy of this book from Candlewick Press for review. I loved the color pictures throughout the book. They really gave me a good visual picture of the characters and events. I always enjoy books that have a historical setting and this book touched on many key events in our nation's history. It would be a good stepping stone to helping kids learn about these events in more detail. This story was one of adventure and imagination. I also enjoyed reading the poem If by Rudyard Kipling. It's a great one and I might just like to memorize it myself. This book has a recommended reading age of about 4th-8th grade. My only gripe about the book is the language. I really thought it unnecessary. Especially if a 9 year old is reading it. Here are my favorite lines from the book. It reminded me of my grandparents who had memorized more poems than I can count. "Poetry gets you through the hardest times, Oscar. It's like a tonic. The world has forgotten poetry and how it heals the soul and body, too."
Work is scarce and Oscar's dad has a tough time at it first. Meanwhile, Oscar is working on improving his math grades at school. While his aunt and cousin go about their tutoring and speech lessons to wealthier families, Oscar stays at home. One day he meets an older man named Mr. Applegate. Mr. Applegate used to be a mathematics professor at Princeton, but his theories about Einstein and time travel were too advanced for the time. He lost his job and now travels around from place to place looking for work. Mr. Applegate helps Oscar with his math and introduces him to great literature. Mr. Applegate eventually gets hired at the local bank as a night watchman. Weeks before Christmas the bank reveals an impressive lobby display of trains, all of which used to belong to Oscar and his father. Mr. Applegate lets Oscar in to watch every night, showing him how to turn the alarm back on when he comes in. One night, Oscar forgets and two criminals show up to rob the bank. One of them doesn't want any witnesses and tries to shoot Oscar. Mr. Applegate calls out for Oscar to jump and jump he does, becoming small enough to board one of the trains on the lobby display.
However, things are more mysterious than that when Oscar discovers that he actually is traveling on a real train in real time from Chicago to Los Angeles. He needs to get back home and stop the robbers, but he's not sure how. His journey takes him not only from part of the country to the other, but from one time to another, too.
ON THE BLUE COMET is a very creative and imaginative story. The story is basically a piece of historical fiction with some sci-fi and fantasy elements tied in. The settings of the story are grounded in reality. Many of the events that take place are historical, the places are real, and the famous people Oscar meets are people he very well could have met in those situations. I liked it how Ronald Reagan is never referred to beyond his nickname of "Dutch" or that Alfred Hitchcock is only known to Oscar as Mr. H. The famous people he meets doesn't stop there because later he meets the Kennedys, J.P. Morgan, Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Mellon, Charles Merrill, and Edmund Lynch but they are all referred to by their real names.
The book is illustrated by Russian artist Bagram Ibatoulline. A few weeks ago I had never heard of the man, but a few days ago I read Kate DiCamillo's children's Christmas story, GREAT JOY and Ibatoulline drew the illustrations for that book. His pictures for ON THE BLUE COMET are quite literally astounding. They are like looking at actual paintings from a different era. These pictures go along way in helping to further set the mood, tone, and settings of the story. I also liked the occasional use of the newspaper articles and hand-written letters in the book. They help augment the visual appeal of the text as well as providing younger readers with a break for reading.
I very much enjoyed reading ON THE BLUE COMET. It's a story that older elementary kids and early middle-school students who have an interest in time travel, history, or trains will enjoy and if someone likes all three they are sure to love it.
The story lived up to the cover. No point in writing a synopsis, since others have already done so, but the time travel elements are very well done, the characterizations are excellent, and I'm left desperately wanting a sequel to find out more about the people about whom I came to care.
An added bonus for adults which will probably pass children by are the references, not necessarily by name, to famous people of the past. I was especially moved by the portrayal of Dutch, who is first seen wearing a Eureka College sweater.
The full-color inside illustrations are also spectacular.
Why I picked it up: Hello? A full length juvenile book written by Rosemary Wells? Wells can take the simplest element of young rabbit and big sister and weave a totally charming and unerringly accurate portrayal of childhood. I thought she might be able to do the same here.
Why I read it: I was in the middle of several other books when this came in, and just started the first couple of pages to taste. Oscar's serious but slightly sardonic voice came through so strongly, against a backdrop of the Depression which was vivid but not maudlin. Wells does a wonderful job of using detail to create reality, and Oscar's voice rang in my ears after I had put the book down, calling me back to it when I tried to finish others higher up on my stack.
Dealing with time travel and trains, this book would be a good one to recommend to fourth and fifth graders. The sci fi element follows to its logical end. There's plenty of danger but a satisfyingly happy ending.
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